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VIDEO: Kevin Keatts’ Presser After NC State Handled Wake Forest 94-74

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NC State took care of business last night, defeating Wake Forest 94-74 at home. Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts talked with the media in his postgame press conference. The videos are below, and a bulleted breakdown is underneath.

  • It was a very good game for us overall. I’m very proud of our guys for that win.
    • In the locker room, we were talking about the nine guys that got in the game and all nine contributed to the win.
    • It was one of those games where we were able to get out in transition because we rebounded and shared the basketball.
    • We made shots.
    • We’ve played pretty well in the last three games where teams have zoned us.
    • It is better to have a week off with a win opposed to a loss. We have got to take a couple of days off, and then try to stay sharp for our next opponent in Florida State.
  • Markell Johnson was special tonight, especially in the 1st half.
    • When we were struggling to score, he rose up and made a bunch of shots. I thought he was really good.
    • He had a career-high for him in ACC play.
    • He was locked in.
    • The good side is that he is playing longer stretches.
    • He is probably still a little bit sore, but the tell-tale sign for me is that he can play a little bit longer. I kept in him in the first half because he was playing well, where I would normally try and get him a break somewhere in there. I think he is getting back.
    • Markell was special tonight and that was the difference in the game.
  • I thought Jerciole Hellems came in and did a tremendous job.
    • Obviously the same with him, a career-high 14 points in ACC play.
    • I thought he was aggressive, was good at running in transition, and played great defense.
    • He is a guy that will continue to get better.
    • I showed him all of his turnovers and told him if he keeps turning the ball over, he is not going to play.
    • Freshmen hit the wall and go through peaks and valleys. He is no different than anyone else, but I think he is back playing good basketball now.
  • Torin Dorn has been steady. He had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
  • I brought TJ Warren into the locker room and told these guys what a special night this was. We talked before the game about TJ getting his jersey lifted into the rafters.
    • I am proud of TJ. I obviously didn’t get to coach him, but I remember his days at Brewster, where he was a tremendous player.
    • When you look at TJ Warren, he wasn’t a top-10 player coming out of high school. He is a self-made guy.
    • When TJ comes back into town every time he gets a break, and I look out at the Dail Center, it’s TJ Warren. He loves to play.
    • You never hear about him having any problems off the court.
    • I told our guys “If you want to be like anybody, be like TJ Warren, because he is a special kid.”
    • I’m excited we could win on the night he is getting his jersey lifted.
  • I love our bench. They have worked hard in practice.
    • We are only dressing nine guys.
    • The message to our team is that we want them to play as hard as you can for as long as you can. Then if you get your hand up, we will get you a break.
  • I’m excited to see Blake play because he is finally getting healthy and is getting back in the rotation.
    • He can definitely help us, especially on the defensive end.

 

 

NC State Basketball

Preview: NC State faces UNC in another must win (9pm, ESPN)

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NC State Wolfpack @ North Carolina Tarheels
Time: 
9pm 
Location: 
Chapel Hill, NC
TV: 
ESPN
Line: UNC -3

What timeline are we living in? NC State sits at 8-8, tied for 5th in the ACC. Meanwhile, UNC is 3-13, last place in the conference. They have lost 7 in a row, one of which was a 17 point loss to the 4-12 Demon Deacons.

Yet, UNC is still the favorite in tonight’s matchup against the Wolfpack and not many people are that surprised.

What to expect from NC State
Not only is this your rivalry game, but it’s a revenge game. UNC’s last win was a 75-65 win over the Pack in late January.  Added on top is the fact that NC State is sitting squarely on the NCAA bubble. A loss to the Heels and they are likely NIT bound. Win, and the dream to dance is still alive.

The Pack needs to do three things.

1) Make sure Markell and Bryce are locked in.
When the senior PG is right, NC State can be dominant. You saw it against Duke, but you’ll need to see it in a game that NC State isn’t the underdog. His 6-19 (and 0-5 from 3) performance last time against Carolina was awful. He wasn’t attacking, he was hesitant and he turned it over 4 times. CJ Bryce was also in the midst of his strange stretch where he couldn’t score and he looked completely lost. He was 0-8 with zero points in that game.

Tonight they need Bryce and Johnson to be clicking on all cylinders.

2) Defend the middle. 
Bates was just back from a concussion the last time these teams met and it showed. Funderburk played well, but Garrison brooks finished with 25 points and 11 boards. Brooks is a good big, but he’s not good enough to take over a game against a healthy Wolfpack frontcourt. They need to make sure they don’t let that happen again.

3) Stop Cole Anthony
Anthony has been good for Carolina since his return but you can expect him to be great tonight unless the Pack can lock down on him. He’s going to look to take over this basketball game, and State can not let that happen. He is averaging almost 20 ppg since his return, however, Carolina hasn’t gotten a win in that span. Anthony is going to be hungry to not only prove he can help this team win but to do it in a setting where he would be knocking his rivals out of NCAA contention.

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ESPN: NC State a projected 12 seed in latest Bracketology

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Looks like beating the #6 team in the nation by 22 points does hold a little weight, at least with Joe Lunardi and the Brackeology crew.

NC State was left out of last week’s edition, but now (even after a loss to FSU on Saturday) finds themselves squarely on the bubble, just squeaking in with a 12-seed play-in game against Oklahoma.

So how does this play out? Here is our prediction.

NC State goes to UNC, plays Pitt at home, plays at Duke and then finishes at home against Wake. If they win 3 of those 4 games, they are in. If they lose 2 of those 4 they are likely out.

With UNC in last place, Wake only a game better and Pitt only a spot higher in the rankings than Wake, NC State is about to face three very winnable teams. They have got to win those. However, if they end up beating Duke (at Duke) and drop one of the other 3, we believe it still will be enough to get them in. But if they lose to Duke, without a doubt they have to win the other 3. At that point we think they’ll be one of the last 4 teams in, but they’d also have a chance to build on their resume with a nice run in the ACC Tournament.

The good news is, the season is still alive, and as usual, with the season winding down, we’re going to have a lot of exciting basketball to watch.

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FULL HIGHLIGHTS: NC State falls to #8 FSU 67-61

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NC State fell to #8 FSU 67-61 in a hard-fought battle.

Devon Daniels led the Pack with 18 points and 9 boards while Jericole Hellems added 14 points and 7 boards. State only got 26 minutes out of their most productive big, DJ Funderburk, due to some questionable foul calls. He finished with just 9 points and 4 boards.

FSU’s length really bothered Markell Johnson and CJ Bryce who combined for just 13 points. Johnson added 5 assists and Bryce had 4 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough from the two seniors.

The Noles really hammered the Pack on the offensive glass, coming up with 15 offensive rebounds to NC State’s 11.

NC State now sits squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament with must-wins games against  UNC and Pitt looming. Then it’s a rematch with the Blue Devils at their place before the season finale at home vs. Wake.

If the Pack can win 3 of those 4 games, they will likely have played themselves into being one of the last teams in selected for the tournament. However, drop drop two of them and they may be on the outside looking in.

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OUR TAKE: NC State’s season still alive after 88-66 upset over #6 Duke

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A few days later and this game is still fresh in the mind of Pack fans.

This game really was a must-win for NC State and it showed. It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season that honestly had started to get a bit perplexing.The roster is just too good to be sitting in the middle of the pack of an ACC that isn’t at full strength. With a senior point guard (Johnson), a senior forward (Bryce) and an emerging star in the font court (Funderburk), you’d think NC State would be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. However, in true NC State fashion here we are in February facing an uphill climb to make the dance.

After the Boston College game, most NC State fans were down. It seemed as though with the Pack falling towards the middle of the standings and #6 Duke coming in, followed by #8 FSU, the odds of a late-season run were diminishing. However, if you’ve followed NC State long enough, you knew something that no data or no basketball analyst could predict. You knew NC State was going to win this game. You knew that it’s only when all hope is seemingly lost, does NC State rise from the ashes and do the unthinkable.

The Wolfpack came out against Duke as confident as we’ve seen all year. There was zero fear. They played as if their season depended on this game,..and it really did. They were physical, they were hungry, and they looked like the top-10 team, not the #6 ranked Blue Devils. So what happened? What was the difference? Who was this team?

Markell Johnson decided to dominate
The keyword there is ‘decided.’ There was no luck involved in Markell’s 28 point, 9 rebound, 4 assist effort. That was Markell simply being locked in, playing without fear and dominating a basketball game. I won’t lie and say I know what’s been going on in Johnson’s head this season. He has had moments, but hasn’t really captured that form he showed at the end of games last season. Against Duke, he finally did and he sustained it for an entire game. Whatever Keatts told him, whatever pre-game ritual he did or motivation he used to get up for this game, I hope it’s repeatable. With Markell playing at that level, NC State is not only a tournament team, but they are a tough out for ANY (yes, ANY) team in the nation.

Funderburk’s versatility is a problem
Funderburk’s 21 points was a season-high in conference play. His 15 shots was also a season-high. See the correlation? DJ Funderburk is one of NC State’s best players and he needs to get shots if they are going to win. He was matched up against one of the best frontcourts in the country and he did work. He had 9 rebounds, 4 of which were offensive and also pitched in 3 steals and a 3 pointer. This guy is a stud and the faster his teammates realize he needs his touches, the faster the Wolfpack will be able to reach their full offensive potential.

Devon Daniels set the tone.
Say what you want about Daniels, the guy has been the most consistent energy guy on this team for the past month. Yes he takes some crazy floaters, and sometimes forces shots you’d rather see go to Markell or DJ, but maybe just maybe he’s starting to come into his own. Daniels was a good scorer coming out of high school and showed a lot of flashes at Utah as a freshman. But since coming to NC State he has struggled to find his role. That’s no longer the case. He came out of the gate hot against Duke and put pressure on them from the get-go. It helped that his floaters and running layups were falling, but you can credit that to his focus. He too was locked in for this game. He finished with 25 points and 9 rebounds and it seemed like Duke wanted no part in getting in front of him. Daniels is strong, physical and cocky on the court. While it may have taken him some time to learn to play within this system, he might actually be the one starting to give this Wolfpack team an identity.

Less 3s, more attacking
In Keatts presser, he said he challenged his team to attack more and settle for 3s less. The outcome was State only taking 13 3s and hitting 8 of them. That is who this team needs to be. Markell, Bryce, Daniels, Hellems, and Funderburk are all good shooters, but none are great 3 point shooters. Beverly could be a great shooter, but he’s struggled the past 2 seasons to find his stroke. With this being the case, you need your team to make their money attacking the basket. This team has floated around and settled for a lot of lazy 3s. Keatts may finally be putting his foot down and making them play to their strength. It worked well against Duke, let’s see if they can keep focused and apply that type of attack vs FSU.

A huge win
This win wasn’t just big, it was huge. NC State needed this for so many reasons. Had they lost, the season was probably over (in terms of NCAA chances). They would limp into a game against FSU with no clear path to the tournament other than a big ACC Tourny run. Instead, they have knocked off the #6 team in the nation by 22 points. I outright slaughtering. Now, with confidence riding high, they welcome #8 FSU to Raleigh on Saturday. Back to back wins over Top-10 teams would put NC State in a position to get into the NCAA Tournament without being on the bubble.

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