Frustrating Loss Ends Tech’s Stay in Tampa

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There for a moment, it looked like the Hokies were going to get it done. After 100 minutes of NC State shooting 70-of-115 against the Hokies, after two and a half games of blistering Virginia Tech’s defense, NC State finally cooled down. They made just six of their first 18 shots after half time, and A.D. Vassallo popped a three-pointer to tie it up at 48 with 7:10 to go. There was a little crack in the clouds that hang over the Hokies every time they play the Wolfpack.

The Pack was wounded and sluggish. NC State point guard Engin Atsur could
barely walk at times. The Hokies were picking up the pace and pushing the ball
down the floor for some easy buckets.

Then it fell apart. Over the next four minutes and 15 seconds, NC State went
on a 10-2 run that sealed the deal. The Hokies did all they could to help,
missing the front end of three agonizing one and ones, the worst part of a
5-of-15 start at the free throw line that was only part of a tapestry of missed
opportunities that doomed the Hokies.

Sunday afternoon, the North Carolina Tar Heels will destroy the NC State
Wolfpack. NC State is done, fatigued and injured, and the Tar Heels will force
the pace and dispatch of the Pack quickly and easily. Sadly, the Hokies couldn’t
beat the Wolfpack just once this season, a season in which NC State accounted
for over a quarter of the Hokies’ 11 defeats. No one else beat Tech twice, but
the Pack did it three times. I can explain it … but then again, I can’t.

Once again, the Hokies were hesitant against a team that scares absolutely no
one else. Knowing they couldn’t be lethargic and tentative against the Pack, the
Hokies were exactly that, for too many long stretches of time. Tech showed pop
and pressure at times, but for the most part, they stood around too much on
offense and walked the ball up court too much … again.

There were reasons to be encouraged. Tech limited Ben McCauley, part of a duo
of inside players who have killed the Hokies this season, to just 8 points on
the day. Brandon Costner, the other half of State’s two-headed post monster,
only had 10 points. VT forced 17 turnovers from an NC State team that usually
takes good care of the ball. That was the key, right? Force turnovers and get