Published November 20, 2014
C.J. Leslie says North Carolina State wasn't mentally there against No. 20 Florida State. By the end of it, former Wolfpack stars Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani weren't there physically, either.
The Seminoles beat N.C. State 76-62 on Saturday in a game perhaps most memorable for the bizarre mid-game ejections of two of the school's best players from the 1980s and '90s.
Leslie scored 21 points to lead N.C. State (18-9, 7-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), but the rest of the team combined to shoot 9 of 44 in their second straight loss with both coming to nationally ranked teams. Fewer than 48 hours earlier, N.C. State blew a 20-point lead in a loss at No. 5 Duke.
"As a team, we didn't come. We weren't mentally there," Leslie said. "That's very important that, as a team, we be on the same page. We all weren't on the same page, and we didn't come out and act like we wanted to win this game."
And making the day even more miserable for the Wolfpack, Gugliotta and Corchiani — whose jersey numbers hang in the RBC Center's rafters — were tossed from the stands with about 6½ minutes left by official Karl Hess. They were in the seating area behind the scorer's table at the time.
Hess declined comment several times when approached after the game by a reporter from The Associated Press seeking an explanation. Corchiani tweeted that Hess "didn't like fact Googs (and) I told him he was having a bad day, inconsistent, (and) telling the truth."
Said coach Mark Gottfried: "I don't have any idea what happened there."
Ian Miller scored 17 points, Bernard James had 12 and Okaro White and Michael Snaer each finished with 10 for Florida State (19-7, 10-2), which improved to 4-0 against North Carolina's Tobacco Road programs and beat all four in the same season for the first time. The Seminoles will go for the sweep next Thursday when No. 5 Duke makes a return trip to Tallahassee.
"We're not from Tobacco Road where everyone pays attention to basketball," Snaer said. "There's an added emotion. You're up here, and you want to win every single game. All of the North Carolina teams are very strong, so talented, and we want to take the challenge."
They never trailed, shot 49 percent, led by double figures for the entire second half, held N.C. State to 29 percent shooting — its worst of the season, by far — and forced 17 turnovers. That helped Florida State win its third straight and remain atop the league standings.
The Seminoles, who haven't lost in Raleigh since 2006, have their defense largely to thank for their latest win here.
They entered allowing teams to shoot just 37 percent — second-best in the ACC — and clamped down on an N.C. State team that makes nearly 47 percent of its shots. Much of the Wolfpack's offense came from the free throw line, where they were 25 of 31.
Florida State outscored N.C. State 18-9 during an 8½-minute stretch of the second half, with White's tip-in with 10 minutes to play making it a 20-point game for the first time at 57-37.
The Wolfpack cut it to 12 three times, the last on Leslie's free throw with 4:25 left. Florida State then re-established its comfortable lead by reeling off seven quick points, with Miller's layup making it 70-51 with 3½ minutes to play.
Lorenzo Brown had 12 points and Richard Howell added 11 rebounds for N.C. State, which hadn't shot worse than 36.8 percent this season, against No. 8 North Carolina.
Leading scorer Scott Wood, who averages 13.2 points, finished with eight on 1-for-10 shooting while hitting his only field goal with about 6 minutes left, with Gottfried saying he thought Wood might have gotten tired.
This game matched two teams that were on the opposite ends of comebacks last time out. Florida State rallied from 15 points down with 15 minutes left to beat Virginia Tech on Thursday night, a few hours before the Wolfpack's loss at Duke.
It also marked the midpoint of a brutal stretch for N.C. State, which in a six-day span was playing all three teams that shared the ACC lead. The Wolfpack host the Tar Heels on Tuesday night.
"We have to accept the fact that if you want to play in the greatest show on Earth, then you better toughen up and you better man up, pal," Gottfried said. "There is no other way to look at it. Teams that get to play in March are mentally tough enough to withstand most things, and they fight their way through it. ... We're not there, and we've got to get there."