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About Last Night: NC State 78, Auburn 71

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at N.C. State Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Last night was dumb.

Auburn lost by a touchdown to NC State in Raleigh (I should’ve just paid full attention to the Survivor finale instead of watching us clank bricks in a gym we’d never seen before), and when you get past the free throw discrepancy, the bad refs, the sloppy play, the weird flagrant, and the fact that the Tigers didn’t get to have shootaround in the gym where they’d be playing, there’s one thing that’s true.

NC State outplayed us last night and that’s the reason we lost.

From the start, they were a hotter shooting team (I wonder why) and they were a much more tenacious defensive team. Auburn was clearly frustrated trying to run their offense in an almost exclusive half-court tempo. There was no running and gunning last night, and the Wolfpack did a good job of making that happen with made shots and good defense.

The loss stings, but let’s look at it this way — glass half-full —

Some of those numbers are staggeringly bad.

25 turnovers.

5-25 from three.

6-12 from the foul line.

And of the starters, Jared Harper got 11 points, Chuma Okeke and Samir Doughty each had 7, Bryce Brown had 3, and Anfernee McLemore had nothing. 28 points from the starting five isn’t going to cut it at all. For a period during the first half, Austin Wiley was dominant, and he finished with 13 points, while J’Von McCormick took over the second half for a while with 14 points, but that wasn’t enough as NC State got a charmed shooting performance from Markell Johnson.

He had 27 points, just a single point fewer than our starters combined.

And Auburn still lost by just 7 points.

It’s not the end of the world, by far. It’s pretty good when you consider the start, and the fact that Auburn did actually come back and take the lead late in the first half. They were also tied at 47 in the second half before falling behind for good. NC State won at home. I would expect that if this game had been played at Auburn, the Tigers would’ve won.

There are some tough things to consider, though. The last two games have been one guy exploding and everyone else just kind of chipping in. Bryce Brown did it against Dayton with 34, but he’s been non-existent on the road. Jared Harper had 31 on Saturday night, but had to score some late baskets just to hit double figures last night. So where is everyone else?

It seems like Auburn is still working on getting the rotations set. There are a lot of pieces, and I don’t know if everyone can play as much as we’d like them to. It’s clear that Austin Wiley can be dominant, and we have a couple sparks from guys like McCormick and Malik Dunbar off the bench, but we need to go with what’s working the most. And if Harper/Brown fail to get double digit points on a given night, then it’s going to be a close game. That’s the bottom line. Both of those guys need to hit 10 points apiece on a slow night.

In the end, it’s disappointing, but a good performance against Murray State on Saturday with a more even scoring effort will almost erase this. Both of Auburn’s losses have come to good ACC teams, both of which will be in the NCAA Tournament this year, and that’s nothing to cry about. The Tigers will have plenty of chances down the road. Last night just didn’t go our way.