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OUR TAKE: On NC State season opening win over Mt. Saint Mary’s

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The was quite the roller coaster of a season opener for NC State.

It had the excitement of getting to see all these new guys playing together in a real game for the first time. It had early struggles that made you wonder if this team isn’t as good as you first thought. It had the veterans stepping up when the team needed a bucket. And it had a mega-run to end the game that made it clear that this team is going to be pretty darn good. Let’s talk specifics.

First game jitters happen every year
While the fans are keyed in to watching the game and sizing up the team immediately, you have to remember to give these guys a little time to settle in. They’re excited, most of them are they’re playing their first meaningful game in front of State fans at the PNC and they all want to show what they can do. You saw all of that early on in this one. There were a lot of overplays defensively, a lot of quick, poor shots on offense and just a lot of guys forcing the issue. But again, these were all byproducts of this being the first half of game one. In the second half the team really settled in and you saw what they can do when they’re clicking.

The veterans (Dorn and Johnson) are going to be huge for NC State
Coming into this season, most of the discussion has been around the newcomers, but don’t let that fool you. It’s the veterans Markell Johnson and Torin Dorn who are going to be the engines that make this thing go. The duo finished with 45 points on 17-28 shooting (61%) and even hit went 7-11 from 3.

I think Dorn looked like Dorn. He did all the things you’d expect and got hot from 3 in the second half. He’s physical, he’s versatile, he’s a smart player, and he goes 100% all the time. If he’s going to add a decent 3 ball to the mix then team’s aren’t going to know what to do with him.

Meanwhile, Markell Johnson seemed a bit more aggressive offensively. He hunted his shot a bit in this one and all the work on his 3-ball this off-season seems to have paid off. So did anything change to help him start feeling comfortable scoring more? (That’s our segway to the next section…)

Blake Harris is the spark plug
There was a question of where Missouri transfer Blake Harris would fit in with this team. They already have one of the best PGs in the nation and he’s being backed up by Braxton Beverly, who led the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio. So where does a PG like Harris fit?

He showed us all tonight.

NC State couldn’t pull away from Mt. Saint Mary’s, and it was partly because NC State’s on-ball defense wasn’t great and they just couldn’t get their offense going against the zone. That’s when Harris checked in. At around the 15-minute mark, Harris entered and kind of took over PG duties. He started bringing the ball up and pushing Markell to the wing. The led to Johnson playing more of a scorer’s role. He knocked down some 3’s and drove with intentions to score. All while Harris was playing the distributor.

Harris didn’t only change the game on offense, he also stepped up the pressure on D. His ability to pester the Mt Saint Mary’s ball handlers led to a ton of quick shots on their end and helped NC State really start pulling away. His stat line might night jump out at you, but Harris was a major catalyst in NC State’s 51-14 run they used to finish off the game.

 

Funderburk is better than we all thought
I don’t think anyone really knew what to expect from Funderburk. The 6’9 sophomore is getting his first D-1 action after getting dismissed from OSU and playing a year of junior college.

What we are seeing is a versatile, long, hard-working big who plays within the offense and doesn’t try to do too much. That’s a recipe for success right there. Funderburk went 7-7 in the exhibition game (20 pts) and kept up the perfection in this one, going 4-4 for 9 points. He also added 6 boards and 2 blocks in his 21 minutes of play.

One of the big questions about this team was how they were going to replace a guy like Yurtseven. Well, Funderburk definitely showed that he’s going to play a major role in this team. His ability to make plays on both ends in transition, as well as his patience on offense and willingness to share the basketball, make it clear that he’s a perfect fit for this basketball team

We haven’t seen the real Devon Daniels…yet
After the game, Keatts remarked that he didn’t think Daniels ever hit his stride. We agree. Daniels is probably the best built to lead this team in scoring. He’s got that Al Freeman-esque 3-level scoring capability that you can’t teach. In this game, however, Daniels was just forcing it a bit too much. Quick, off-balance shots and not enough ball movement made it clear that he was pressing to get things going. Keatts also talked about how Al Freeman really settled in last season when he focused on sharing the ball and started understanding what a good shot was. He said Daniels will likely be in the same boat.

Beverly will complete this team
Watching this game, I couldn’t help but feel that getting Beverly back would be a big moment for this basketball team. What this group lacked at times was the ability to shoot it from deep and a guy who can really settle them down and control the pace for a bit.

Beverly is this team’s best shooter and also a smart, controlled PG who can slow things down if things start getting too crazy. When teams go zone Beverly will become even more important. He’s the perfect compliment to this group of uber-athletic guards.

 

You’ll see more Steere
We keep hearing it, Freshman Ian Steere will eventually be good. He needs more polish. He needs some time. Well, he only logged a few minutes at the end of this one, but it was enough to convince me that he’ll be playing a bigger role for this team sooner rather than later.

This team is going to get in situations where they just don’t have enough muscle in the middle. That’s where Ian Steere will carve out his role. If Funderburk is getting pushed around and Walker isn’t getting it done on the boards, Steere will get his chance. I believe when he gets his chance, as he did last night, it will become apparent that this team has a true need a big with some nasty, and that’s what Ian Steere brings to the table.

NC State Basketball

VIDEO: Kevin Keatts Talks Before #19 NC State’s Matchup vs. #23 Louisville

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#19 NC State head coach Kevin Keatts spoke with the media today before Thursday’s road game against #23 Louisville. He broke down the latest on Junior Point Guard Markell Johnson’s availability…

The video is ABOVE (Via TheWolfpacker), and a bulleted breakdown is BELOW.

  • I think I said it the other day, he’s (Markell Johnson) a guy that could play on Thursday, or could play three or four weeks from now. I’m not going to play him until he feels mentally and physically ready to play.
    • There won’t be any pressure on our end. We’re prepared to go into every game without him. If he’s able to play…feels he can play…and the doctors and trainers say he can play…we’d definitely love to have him back in our lineup
    • He’s getting shots up with no contact at this point. He’s not moving really fast, but anything we do at the beginning where we get shots up and there is no contact, he participates in that.
    • I think he feels better each day. I typically get a report from our trainer right after practice and every night, and the report last night was he felt better after working out yesterday.
    • He took a pretty nasty fall. He doesn’t have a lot of meat in that area. He’s really, really sore.
  • DJ Funderburk’s been great. He’s long and athletic, and can get to a lot of offensive rebounds. He’s been great in that area, but he’s also done a great job with defensive presence.
    • Against Pitt he had to play a lot of minutes and did a tremendous job without getting into foul trouble. Made some shots. Ran the floor.
    • He gives us the ability on the defensive end where we can switch all screens if we have to, because he’s the only guy on our roster who can guard all five positions on the floor. He’s been very valuable to us.
    • When he’s in the game, we typically don’t have a true center. Wyatt Walker is the closest we have to a true center. We have two power forwards or two forwards when he’s on the floor.
    • At Hargrave, he was always on the front of a press. Played with energy. He played hard. Affected every aspect of the game.
    • Went JUCO and some projected him as the No. 1 JUCO in the country. He’s only going to get better as the years go on. He’ll continue to put on weight. Next year I’d love to see him add 20 more pounds to his frame.
    • It’s a couple of different things (On why he doesn’t start). I don’t like him getting into early foul trouble. He’s also played so great off the bench. Gives us a great lift. He will start games before the season is over. Don’t know when that will be, but he’s so valuable to our program.
    • I felt we had a little bit of advantage (recruiting Funderburk) because AW (Hamilton. Former Assistant Coach who is now at Eastern Kentucky) had coached him. A lot of schools backed off because they thought if NC State wanted him, we’d get him because of his relationship with AW at Hargrave.
  • I think we have to play high-level basketball to win there (Louisville). They are playing as good as any team in our conference. After the Pitt loss, I don’t think they’ve had a game closer than 10 points. They had an unbelievable win at Carolina and on the road with Georgia Tech.
    • (Jordan) Nwora is playing very good basketball. He’s shooting the ball extremely well. They are talented and play hard.
    • Chris (Mack) is doing a great job with the program.
    • My emotions are I’m hoping we can go there and get a win. I’m the NC State coach and excited about our guys. For me, it’s another great opponent on their floor. It’s so hard to win in the ACC on the road.
  • We have to be there on the catch (On what you have to do to stop Nwora). He’s really good. He reminds me so much of Cam Johnson with how he can shoot the ball with his height.
    • He’s very good around the NBA line, but he can also step back and take shots. Right now, he’s shooting into a big rim.
    • The only game in the ACC they didn’t win (Pitt), he didn’t have a great game.

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NC State Basketball

NC State Women’s Basketball Stays Put at #8 for 3rd Straight Week

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The NC State Women’s Basketball team stayed put at #8 in the Week 12 AP Poll, after defeating Virginia Tech 70-61 in overtime this past Sunday in their only game of the week.

Need I remind the voters that the Wolfpack is 18-0, and the only remaining undefeated team in all of Division-I College Basketball…Women or Men.

The Wolfpack will host the Clemson Tigers on Thursday night at 7pm.

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NC State Basketball

Remembering when Martin Luther King Jr. Spoke in NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum

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On a day when we remember Martin Luther King Jr., you might not realize that the country-shaping Civil Rights leader once spoke in NC State’s legendary Reynolds Coliseum.

On July 31st, 1966, Dr. King spoke to an integrated audience of an estimated 5,000 people in Reynolds Coliseum. Simultaneously, the Ku Klux Klan was marching the streets of Raleigh in protest to his presence. Much of Raleigh was in an uproar with King in town. Numerous churches in the area took out ads in the News & Observer inviting people to their church that week to denounce him, and oppose integration.

The night before King’s speech, there was an event in the iconic Memorial Auditorium portraying King as a communist.

Rather than a representative from NC State introducing King on their own campus, the President of Shaw University, Dr. James Cheek, introduced him.

King’s presence in North Carolina through the years wasn’t isolated to this one speech. In fact, his first “I have a dream” speech was in Rocky Mount.

As a pastor, I grieve that there were churches that denounced King that week. The integration they opposed is integral to the Gospel of Jesus. We needed to do better then, and we need to do better now. In my opinion, reconciliation, and the fighting of injustice is not optional for anyone that wants to call themselves Christian.

While we have a long way to go in our our society, I’m thankful that Raleigh and NC State aren’t in the same place they were back in 1966.

Check out all of the work and activities going on at NC State surrounding the impact of Dr. King. 

Also, please make sure to read W. Jason Miller’s article at the News & Observer, which shaped this entire piece. It’s wonderful piece of journalism. 

 

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NC State Basketball

NC State Remains in Top-20 in Week 12 Coaches Poll

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The Week 12 Coaches Poll is out, and after another 1-1 week, NC State remains in the Top-20, falling back 3 spots to #19.

ACC Teams in the Week 12 Coaches Poll Top-25

2) Duke (-)
3) Virginia (-2)
8) Virginia Tech (-1)
12) UNC (+3)
19) NC State (-3)
23) FSU (-12)
24) Louisville (+2)

 

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