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Shocker in Raleigh! NC State upsets #2 Duke 96-85

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NC State needed to do everything right if they wanted to knock off #2 Duke on Saturday night.

They did.

The Wolfpack played their most complete game of the season to upset the Blue Devils 96-85.

The Wolfpack had 6 players in double figures, led by Torin Dorn and Omer Yurtseven who both put up 16 on a combined 15-25 from the floor. Here are the quick hits on how NC State pulled off the upset.

 

They out-physicalled Duke in the paint
Sure, Marvin Bagley put up 31 points, but other than that, the Wolfpack bigs dominated this basketball game. Duke has been beasts on the boards this season, but NC State punked them in the paint. The Pack out-rebounded them 34-32, We made a point earlier today that if NC State was going to stay close in this game, they needed to keep Duke off the offensive boards (they are the #1 team in the nation on the offensive glass). NC State did just that, battling their way to a 14-12 advantage there.

Omer Yurtseven may have played his best game in a Pack uniform. Not only did he play solid defense, but he also led the NC State offense, dropping 16 points on 8-14 shooting (he also finished with 9 boards and 3 blocks).

State also got big games from seniors Lennard Freeman and Malik Abu. These guys brought it tonight. Abu stopped settling for jumpers and got back to using his athleticism around the rim. He finished with 10 points.

Meanwhile, Freeman had another efficient night, finishing 5-8 from the floor, on his way to 13 points and 5 boards. Freeman’s rebuilt frame has been a true difference maker this season. His physicality has allowed him to be a real force in the middle for Kevin Keatts.

 

Braxton Beverly was a true leader
Beverly has had big games in both of NC State’s big upsets this season. He finished this one with 14 points and 5 assists (with only 2 TOs), but what Beverly really brought isn’t going to show up in the box score. Not only did he do a good job defending a bunch of future NBA guards that had a size and athleticism advantage on him, but he also answered the bell when NC State needed him.

When Duke had it within 3, with only 2:47 left to play, Beverly took a 3 ball off the dribble that he usually passes up. He wanted it and he drilled it. After 2 Bagley FTs, Beverly went off a screen and delivered a beautiful long bounce pass to the wing, for an open Torin Dorn 3 ball. He followed that up with a steal on the defensive end and 2 FTs. That spurt gave the Pack a 9 point lead and really ended up being the final nail in Duke’s coffin.

What Beverly is doing is insane. This kid is 5’10, playing his 14th game as a freshman and he already looks like a seasoned vet. It’s hard to imagine what he’ll be like as a senior.

Lavar Batts changed the game
We aren’t going to say we told you so, but we did. NC State desperately needs a playmaker like Batts, and tonight was the first time we saw him be the creator we knew he could be. He was dicing up the Duke defense and delivering no-look pass after no-look pass for easy dunks. Batts finished the game with 7 points, 5 assists and 4 boards… all without a single turnover.

Before Batts made a layup at the 13:04 mark in the first half, Duke had taken a 7 point lead and it looked as if they might run away with this one. But the freshman PG decided it was time for his coming out party. When Batts finally came out, with about 5 minutes left in the first half, the game was tied. He had scored 5 points and dished out 3 assists in those 8 minutes.

His energy and electric play got NC State back into this game and got them to start believing that they might just end up taking out Duke. He used his speed and quickness, not to find his own shots, but to create for others. Huge game for the freshman.

 

Elite team defense
We already talked about the rebounding, but what about the NC State defense? They were outstanding in every aspect. They did not allow the Duke guards to get into the lane and create. Their help and recover was perfect, with tons of communication and everyone on the same page.

The biggest stat of the game was Grayson Allen’s 8 points. NC State flustered Allen with a variety of different looks and had him off balance all night. One of best scorers in the ACC only shot 3-9 and you can credit Kevin Keatts game planning and Dorn/Freeman’s execution.

Duke ended up shooting a great 51%, but a lot of that was because Bagley was near unstoppable. They did, however, really do a great job at limiting any good looks from 3. There was a hand in every guy’s face and Duke ended the night shooting just 3-15 from long range.

Lastly, NC State’s pressure defense caused Duke to turn it over an uncharacteristic 16 times. As we pointed out this morning, Duke doesn’t turn it over much, so what the Pack was able to do was that much more impressive.

 

 


 

NC State is now 11-5 on the season with 2 wins over two different #2 ranked teams in the nation. They are also 1-2 in the conference and face off against #25 Clemson at home on Thursday.

We’ll have highlights and quotes coming soon!

NC State Basketball

PLAYER PREVIEW: Transfer Devon Daniels says his “offensive game has elevated a lot since Utah.”

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Over the course of our Basketball Player Previews, we’ve wrapped a player intro story around the interviews we did during media day. However, since we’ve already done an in-depth piece on Devon Daniels, and since these quotes are pretty good all by themselves, we’re just going to drop them right here for you.

On transitioning to Keatts system…
“That was perfect for me. At Utah I wasn’t really there to score. I was there to play hard, dive on the floor, get rebounds, play hard defense…and then I got to score. When he asks that of me, it’s perfect. I really like to win and compete.”

On his battles last year during practice with Al Freeman…
“Me and Al Freeman, we were perfect to go against each other because we are so competitive. I think it helped them a lot and it helped us grow. It was good.”

On where he fits with this team…
“Anything he asks me to do, I’m willing to do it. I trust him and I know he wants the best out of all of us. If he wants to put me anywhere on the court I’m ready, I’m willing.”

On the type of player he is…
“Shoot, I’m just a guard that likes to win. I’ll play defense, I’ll score. I think my offensive game has elevated a lot since I was at Utah.”

On what type of shape he’s in…
“Physically I’ve always been in pretty good shape. I’ve added about 5 pounds, my body fat is real, real low, at 1.9 or something like that. I’m really ready.”

On what he did when the team was on road trips last season…
“Made sure to stay in the gym. Just because they were gone it doesn’t mean we get a break. We just made an effort to get in the gym together.”

On what his sit-out transfer year was to him…
“It was more a learning opportunity. I got to see what made them go and at times what made them struggle. I took it as, like, film watching.”

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PLAYER PREVIEW: Eric Lockett is the guy nobody is talking about, but that may not be the case for long

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Grad-transfer Eric Lockett hasn’t been talked about much this offseason,

He decided to transfer back at the beginning of April two days after former head coach Anthony Evans was let go. He started 31 of 32 games last season, averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Lockett began his career at George Mason, but suffered a season-ending injury in the 5th game. He then sat out a year transferring and spent the past two seasons at FIU.

Now at NC State, he steps into a program that has six quality guards (Markell, Beverly, Harris, Daniels, Lockett and Bryce) all looking to fill 3 spots. So what can Lockett bring to the table that will set him apart?

“Leadership first and foremost. Being able to show the guys how to work hard on a consistent basis. On the court, being aggressive and doing what I do well.”

If you look a little deeper, you can start to see a pattern with Kevin Keatts. Here we are again, this year the roster may be more talented, but there still isn’t a lot of veteran leadership. Like last year, Keatts has looked outside the program to bring in proven leaders. A year ago it was Al Freeman and Sam Hunt. This year it’s Wyatt Walker and Eric Lockett.

Lockett is also another player that his staff had targeted. This time it was a connection to Coach Siddle that started the process…

“Coach Siddle recruited me and throughout the whole process me and Coach Keatts talked a lot and built a relationship. I knew what he was looking for and what I wanted out of my next program and this is what I wanted.”

“(Coach Siddle) recruited me out of high school. That was a while ago but I kind of remembered him when he reached back out.”

The more we watch the decision Keatts makes and how he goes about building his roster, the more it’s apparent that this guy is organized, calculated and laser-focused on building his roster exactly the way he wants it.

Lockett is another 6’5 tweener. He’s another guy that is extremely physical and extremely aggressive. He’s athletic, he’s fast, and he has a great motor. He’s a Keatts-guy. He’s another Torin Dorn (albeit a little lighter) if you need a comparison.

This is why there’s no doubt that Lockett made the right choice coming to NC State. This is a sytem that fits his playing style, Keatts has shown he really liked versatile 6’5 guys who can guard multiple positions, and he’s proven he puts his grad transfers in a position to succeed. Lockett saw all of this too.

“(Seeing how the grad transfers were used and performed last year) definitely played a role in my decision. I felt I could come in and kind of do what they did. I’m a different player and will affect the program in a different way, but the opportunity that’s there, I like it.”

As far as transition goes, Lockett says it’s been easy and having a bunch of new guys on the team makes it easier to acclimate.

“It’s been fun. I’m enjoying playing with a new team. It’s not really difficult, it’s kind of easy because we have a bunch of new guys learning a new system, trying to do what Coach Keatts wants on the court.  It’s been pretty easy and I like the process.”

One source told us that Lockett isn’t just acclimating, he’s been a handful for the returning guards to deal with on the court. His physicality and ability to finish at the rim has surprised some who didn’t know much about him coming in.

So, when you’re trying to predict NC State’s rotation, make sure you don’t leave out Lockett. In fact, if you paid attention last year, you saw that it was guys like him who ended up playing big roles down the stretch for the Wolfpack.

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FLASHBACK to the most memorable Dunk Contest in ‘Primetime with the Pack’ history

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The year was 2009.  Sidney Lowe was in his 4th year with the Wolfpack and was coming off a 10th place, 16-14 (6-10) season. He was relying on a backcourt of Farnold Degand, Javi Gonzalez, Julius Mays and a freshman Scott Wood, to lead this Wolfpack ball club. In the frontcourt, they had some talent. Tracy Smith, Dennis Horner, and a young Richard Howell were asked to shoulder the load. They were supplemented by athletic wing Johnny Thomas and the huge Aussie Jordan Vandenberg.

Obviously, as expected, this team didn’t end up all that great. They finished with 20 wins but a 5-11 ACC record doomed them to 10th place.

That will be remembered for two things.

This 3/4 court heave by Chandler Parsons that won the game for a ranked Florida team…

And the ‘Primetime with the Pack’ dunk contest.

When your dunk contest participants are Farnold Degand, Johnny Thomas, walk-on Kaycee Obi-Gwacham and Jordan Vandenberg you aren’t going to be expecting much. But that night, Reynolds Coliseum was electric. It had an alley-oop from the 2nd deck, a decent ‘off the side of the backboard’ slam, and a 7’1 guy going between his legs for a dunk.

This might not be the best dunk contest in ‘Primetime with the Pack’ history, but considering it’s participants and the reaction from the crowd, I’d say it’s got to be the most memorable.

Do you agree?

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PLAYER PREVIEW: Ian Steere looks to bring physicality to the Wolfpack front court

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Ian Steere was probably the most hyped freshman in this year’s class thanks to the monstrous dunks that went viral amongst NC State fans.

However, just because you have a savage highlight reel, it doesn’t mean your skills are going to translate to ACC basketball right away. Ian Steere is finding that out in his early practices with the Pack.

“The pace of the game is much faster, especially the guards. And the bigs, you have to get out and switch, especially in the ACC, they can shoot and dribble. So, I need to move my feet and increase my lateral quickness. It’s been helping a lot.”

With grad senior Wyatt Walker and transfer DJ Funderburk on the roster and coming in with varying levels of experience, Steere isn’t going to be relied upon to shoulder the frontcourt load, he will, however, certainly have a role on this team.

Keatts explained in his preseason press conference that replacing Omer Yurtseven wouldn’t be easy but that he had a 3-headed monster that was up for the challenge Those 3 guys are all very different bigs that bring different skills to the table and are working well together so far this offseason.

“We’re gelling great. We get along on the court and each bringing a different piece to this team. Whatever Keatts needs, one of us can bring it on the court.”

So what does Steere think he’ll bring that is unique to the others?

“I’m trying to bring some physicality. I’m trying to get in there and dirty up the game a little bit. Get on the floor for loose balls, rebounds, whatever I can to help and my offensive will come around, I’m not worried about that.”

There is no question that Steere will succeed in bringing that physicality to the team. He’s built like a brick wall and plays very aggressively in the paint. This type of guy will always have a role on a basketball team, and as he gets more experience he’ll begin to add more pieces to his game. Steere talked about the areas he needs to improve…

“Adding a lot more post moves. Getting faster, being able to guard every position if I have to switch. Definitely moving my feet more and post moves (are what I’m working on the most.)”

The transition for Steere is like that of any freshman. It’s usually a little tough at the beginning, but by midseason, you start to see things click. In a Keatts-system, however, there’s an added wrinkle. Not only do you need to adjust to the speed of the college game, you need to completely change your workout habits and transform your body into a machine.

“(laughs) I”m in the best shape of my life, but I’m not in Keatts-shape yet, so I’m working on it. I’m getting there.”

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