North Carolina State head coach Mark Gottfried protests a call during the second half of Saturday’s against Notre Dame in Raleigh. Notre Dame won 81-72. However, after a 71-69 win at Georgia Tech on Tuesday, the Wolfpack are determined to close the 2016-17 season — the last under Gottfried — on a positive note.
By Rob McLamb
Special to the Times
There is an air of uncertainty over N.C. State men’s basketball but the Wolfpack intend to play out the season to the best of their ability.
Head coach Mark Gottfried, who will be relieved of his duties following the conclusion of the campaign, stated following Saturday’s home loss to Notre Dame that should N.C. State reach any form of postseason play, including the NIT, he and his team would want to carry on.
This came after he explained that he wanted to finish the season as coach as he felt it was an important example to set for his players.
The Wolfpack took the first step in extending their season with a road win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday. The victory over the Yellow Jackets, who defeated N.C. State in Raleigh earlier in the season, snapped a seven-game losing streak and moved the Pack to 15-14 overall with two Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season contests remaining.
N.C. State led by nine with 36 seconds remaining but was forced to withstand a furious rally from Georgia Tech that included a shot attempt to tie the game in the game’s dying moments.
Despite the late scare, the defensive effort from the Pack was a stark contrast to what has been a liability all season. Freshman Markell Johnson was given his first start of his college career as N.C. State went with a small lineup Tuesday.
“I think that was our best defensive effort,” Gottfried said. “I think Markell in the lineup gives us a whole new look as far as with two penetrating guards.
For Gottfried, the win was just rewards for his team following a late rally that came up short against Notre Dame. Prior to the contest against the Irish, N.C. State had lost its last three games by a combined 78 points.
“I am just so thrilled for our players,” Gottfried added. “This has been a tough, tough period for these guys. They have hung in there. The practices have been phenomenal as far as enthusiasm goes and they came out here tonight on the road against a team that is playing as well as anybody, just beat Syracuse the other night, and got a heck of a road win. Extremely proud and happy for these guys.”
The Pack is at home Saturday with a noon matchup versus Virginia before traveling to Clemson in the regular-season finale Wednesday. The 2017 ACC Tournament will begin the following Tuesday in Brooklyn and N.C. State will be on of the four teams playing in the first round of action that day.
OTHER BASKETBALL NOTES
• Thomas Allen, a 6-foot-2 guard from Garner who is currently a senior at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, signed with N.C. State prior to Gottfried’s dismissal but recently tweeted that the coaching change would have no impact on his decision to play for the Wolfpack.
Allen, who won a state title with Garner as a sophomore and was the NCBCA Greater Neuse River Conference Player of the Year and was a second-team North Carolina Basketball Coaches Association selection as a junior, also played for the Garner Road AAU program that has also featured former ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren and current N.C. State redshirt-senior Terry Henderson.
• Some early candidates to replace Gottfried include Archie Miller of Dayton, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, Kevin Keatts of UNC-Wilmington, Will Wade of VCU and Andy Enfield of Southern California. Bobby Lutz, a former N.C. State assistant, and ex-Wolfpack star Vinny Del Negro do not appear to be in the mix.
• The 15th-ranked N.C. State’s women’s basketball team was upset at home by Wake Forest over the weekend at its 12th annual Play4Kay game. But the contest marked the first time that Reynolds Coliseum was sold out for an athletic event since reopening in August following renovation.
A top recruiting target for the Wolfpack, 6-2 forward Samantha Brunelle of Ruckersville, Virginia, attended the contest. Brunelle is considered one of the top 2019 prospects in the nation and in 2016 was one of 12 players selected for the U-17 National Team.
• N.C. State traveled to Hawaii to open its baseball season and the Wolfpack took two-of-three games. The Wolfpack will host Austin Peay at Doak Field beginning Friday for a three-game set in its first home series of the campaign.
• The wrestling team at N.C. State finished its season ranked in the top-10 for the second straight year. The Wolfpack (13-2 overall, 4-1 ACC in duals) will look to successfully defend its ACC title when the ACC Tournament begins March 4 at Reynolds Coliseum.
N.C. State is 35-3 in duals over the past two seasons, with all three losses coming to schools ranked in the top-10.
Rob McLamb has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.