A sterling stretch of basketball just before halftime allowed N.C. State to turn Saturday’s return to Reynolds Coliseum into a runaway.
While Missouri-Kansas City missed 11 consecutive shots, the Wolfpack reeled off 16 points in a row to build a 25-point lead and post a 88-69 win in the team’s annual Heritage Game at its former longtime home.
Torin Dorn recorded a double-double for the second game in a row, leading the Wolfpack in scoring (22 points) and rebounds (17). One week earlier at PNC Arena, Dorn had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 103-71 win over S.C. State.
Markell Johnson scored 17 points against Missouri-Kansas City for N.C. State (8-2). Braxton Beverly added 12 points and Allerik Freeman 10 points for the Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack shot 48.5 percent, including 55.9 percent in the first half when it built a 47-24 halftime lead.
N.C. State’s offense slowed in the second half as it shot just 41.2 percent. But Missouri-Kansas City never drew closer than 11 points.
Missouri-Kansas City (3-8) found enough easy points inside to stay within striking distance of the Wolfpack over the game’s first 12 minutes. But N.C. State never trailed and held a 31-22 lead with 6:03 to play when it turned the game into a rout.
Johnson started N.C. State’s game-deciding run with authority. Taking a pass from the backcourt and finding an open lane to the basket, he launched himself toward the rim, cocked the ball back in his right hand and slammed home two points over Missouri-Kansas City’s 7-2 center Mo Ahmed while drawing a foul.
Johnson added a free throw and the Wolfpack proceeded to also get three points on each of its next two trips down the court. Abdul-Malik Abu scored inside through contact and added a free throw before Braxton Beverly sank a 3-pointer to give N.C. State a 40-22 lead.
While the Kangaroos were on their way to making just one shot over the final six minutes before halftime, Johnson sank a jump shot at 4:17 to give the Wolfpack its first 20-point lead at 42-22.
Abu’s basket inside and a Lavar Batts 3-pointer pushed N.C. State’s lead to 47-22 before the Kangaroos finally ended their drought.
N.C. State posted its third consecutive win since its back-to-back losses to Northern Iowa and Tennessee at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas Nov. 23-24.
Dealing with knee soreness, Abu played his first game since the Tennessee game on Saturday. The 6-8 senior missed N.C. State’s first four games of the season with a sprained knee ligament. He played three games in three days at the Battle 4 Atlantis but missed N.C. State’s wins over Penn State and S.C. State on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 when soreness returned to the knee.
Abu was able to return to practice in the days leading up to Saturday’s Missouri-Kansas City game which allowed him to return to game action.