NC State’s Keatts on Braxton Beverly: ‘He is a very special player for us’
How dominant was N.C. State’s performance against Maryland Eastern Shore? The Wolfpack didn’t need all five players to jump out to a 36-point lead over the MEAC school in the first half.
At intermission N.C. State senior Torin Dorn had more points (17) than the Hawks (15). MDES had two more rebounds (10-8) than the 6-5 Dorn, but that was about all that went its way as the Wolfpack improved to 2-0 with a 95-49 win.
“Somebody told me at halftime, I didn’t realize it though,” Dorn said about his first half feat. “I just play and stay in the moment. My shot was falling, I was able to get on the offensive glass and get a couple of easy ones.”
N.C. State led 51-15 at the break, as nine different players scored in the opening 20 minutes. Dorn had plenty of help in the win, including the return of sophomore guard Braxton Beverly, who saw his first action of the season after returning from hand surgery.
Beverly checked into the game to a standing ovation at the 14:58 mark and his first made basket of the season was a three pointer that gave the Wolfpack a 21-4 lead. Beverly, who broke a bone in his non-shooting hand, knocked down two 3s in the first half, and had six points at the break.
Head coach Kevin Keatts used his entire bench in the game, and nine of the 10 players available scored in the first half. When Blake Harris scored a layup early in the second half to give N.C. State a 63-24 lead, all healthy Wolfpack players had officially contributed on offense. Keatts said he doesn’t plan on using the substitution pattern the rest of the year, but it was working on Saturday.
“I think it’s OK,” Keatts said. “It’s funny because the group that game off the bench have been working together, they usually are the scout team. Today it worked out well. I don’t know if I plan on doing that all year long, but I do like the balance that we had on both groups. I think we have guys who can score, who can rebound. We have guys who understand their roles in both groups. It was pretty good for us today”
N.C. State, which opened the season with a 50-point win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday, started the game on an 8-0 run, scoring three layups in a row, and took advantage of four turnovers by the Hawks (0-2) in the first five minutes.
Keatts went with a new five at his first substitution and that group was led by redshirt sophomore D.J. Funderburk, who scored five straight, and freshman Jericole Hellems, who was 1-for-2 from three in the opening half. The second-year coach went with the five in, five out substitution for majority of the first half until Devon Daniels picked up his third foul with less than two minutes remaining. Keatts had to break his pattern, but it didn’t seem to matter much.
The Hawks didn’t do themselves any favors, turning the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes, which led to 14 points for N.C. State. The Wolfpack forced 15 turnovers in the game.
In Tuesday’s opening, N.C. State only forced eight turnovers. It forced that many by the 9:16 mark of the first half against the Hawks.
Dorn finished with 22 to lead the Wolfpack and 10 rebounds, cooling down after the break. His first basket in the second half came at the 18:35 mark — a three that gave him 20 points while the Hawks had 17.
It was Dorn’s second consecutive 20-point game, coming off a career-high 28 Tuesday night. It was the 12th game of his career with at least 20 points. Funderburk and Hellems each added 13 for the Wolfpack, while Beverly finished with 12 in his return.
A.J. Cheeseman led MDES with 18 points before fouling out with 2:50 remaining in the game. At that point, N.C. State held a 46-point lead. Keatts watched his team closely and with the game out of hand, had to find ways to challenge his group and keep them locked in during the blowout.
“We talk about mindset, getting better from practice to practice, game to game,” Keatts said. “At some point when you’re in a lopsided game you start focusing on yourself and we talked about what makes us better as a basketball team, opposed to who we are playing against.”
The Wolfpack return to action on Tuesday when they host UNC-Asheville at 7 p.m.