NC State came into the game squarely on the bubble (according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi) and needing a win over Pitt in their ACC Tournament opener.
Thanks to one of their best overall team performances of they got it.
Devon Daniels was locked in from start to finish, leading all scorers with 23 points and chipping in 6 rebounds. He shot 9-14 and only turned the ball over once. It’s safe to say that Daniel, who was once a guy that couldn’t really find his role on this team, has become one of their most important pieces. His hustle and physicality has helped give this ballclub an identity and has been a big part of their late-season surge.
Before we move one, I think we need to credit Kevin Keatts here. Keatts took a lot of heat earlier this season with those Carolina losses and the team underperforming at times. But credit where it’s due, people. Devon Daniels on earlier State teams may have never come around. In fact, high confidence players who have struggled to fit into State’s systems in the past have usually been the ones that ended up dividing up the locker room and putting the season in a tailspin. These are the intangibles that people are missing with Keatts. He runs a tight ship and it’s really his way or the highway. Daniels ended up buying in and NC State is now a potential tournament team because of it.
NC State also got great performances from Funderburk who pitched in 10 and 7, Beverly who scored 10 of his own, and Bryce, who started slow but finished strong with 13 points and 10 boards. Oh, and let’s not forget Markell Johnson, who looked very comfortable against Pitt. While I know we all love when Johnson gets hot and starts scoring, its seems he would much rather his teammates take on that role and he finish with a line like yesterday (7 points, 11 assists.
Another great sign was to see NC State really look comfortable against a 2-3 zone. The 3s weren’t falling (25%) so they made a concerted effort to get the ball in the middle and down on the blocks. This led to them shooting an amazing 47.5% from the field.
Next up is Duke who certainly will sprinkle in a good deal of zone (today at 2:30 pm). With a win the Wolfpack are dancing. A loss and they have to wait for the committee to decide.
*Games will be played today with no fans in attendance due to COVID-19.