After some shaky shooting against UNC, NC State expects to bounce back against Pitt

N.C. State didn’t shoot particularly well against North Carolina and its top two scorers struggled.

But coach Kevin Keatts didn’t leave the Wolfpack’s loss to UNC on Tuesday and think the offense was a problem.

“When you score 82 points, that’s enough to win the game,” Keatts said.

Usually for Keatts’ teams, 82 points gets the job done. In his second season at N.C. State, the Wolfpack is 24-4 when it scores 82 points or more. Add in Keatts’ three seasons at UNC-Wilmington, and his coaching record is 56-7 when his teams get to 82 (and 50-35 when they don’t).

He’d like to add another win to that list on Saturday against a rejuvenated Pittsburgh (11-4, 1-1) program.

N.C. State shot relatively poorly in the 90-82 loss to the Tar Heels on Tuesday. The Wolfpack shot a season-low 42.5 percent (31 of 73), including just 28.6 percent from the 3-point line (8-28).

Senior Torin Dorn (12 points), the team’s leading scorer on the season, didn’t hit his season average against UNC and neither did junior guard Markell Johnson (11).

N.C. State was helped by a standout scoring effort off the bench by guard Braxton Beverly (21 points) and forward D.J. Funderburk (15). The Wolfpack bench outscored UNC 43-9.

Beverly was the only Wolfpack player to make more than one 3-pointer. He went 5 of 7, the rest of the team was 3 of 21.

Offense hasn’t been a problem this season for the Wolfpack. N.C. State ranks No. 7 in the country in scoring average (88.7 points per game) and No. 5 in field goal percentage (51.3).

Pitt, in its first season under former Duke assistant Jeff Capel, has hung its hat on the defensive end. The Panthers are No. 43 in defensive efficiency in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

Capel led the Panthers to their first ACC win since the 2017 ACC tournament. The Panthers beat Louisville 89-86 in overtime on Wednesday. Pitt had lost 23 straight regular-season conference games.

Capel has rebuilt the roster and found two good young guards in Xavier Johnson (16.5 ppg) and Trey McGowens (13.8 ppg).

Keatts believes his team will be ready for the Panthers and will not dwell on the UNC loss. After a 79-75 loss at Wisconsin on Nov. 27, N.C. State reeled off seven straight wins before Tuesday.

“You’ll find out a lot about a team in how you bounce back,” Keatts said.

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