Kevin Keatts following loss to North Carolina: ‘We have to start playing smarter’
N.C. State did manage to score more than 24 points. So did North Carolina. A lot more.
Senior Luke Maye led the eighth-ranked Tar Heels to a lopsided 113-96 win over the Wolfpack on Tuesday night at the Smith Center. Maye had 31 points and 12 rebounds as UNC produced its highest-scoring effort in the series between the two schools which covers 236 games and 107 years.
UNC (18-4, 8-1) won its sixth straight ACC game and is starting to look like a viable threat to Duke and Virginia in the conference race.
“There were a lot of things I really, really liked,” said Roy Williams, who improved to 30-4 against N.C. State as UNC’s coach.
Williams mentioned a season-high shooting percentage (56.1 percent) and the big games from Maye and forward Garrison Brooks (eight points, 10 rebounds and a career-high six assists). But he was also upset that N.C. State had shot 50 percent.
The Wolfpack (16-7, 4-6 ACC), which at least found a modicum of its offense after its disastrous loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, is in a tailspin. It has dropped four of its past five games.
After only scoring 24 points against the Hokies, the lowest output of any ACC team in the shot-clock era and by an N.C. State team in 51 years, the Wolfpack at least got back on track on offense.
“I thought we bounced back and did some good things on the offensive end,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said.
Sophomore guard Braxton Beverly, who was 0 for 9 from the 3-point line in the loss to Virginia Tech, made his first four 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.
C.J. Bryce’s layup at 6:03 cracked the 24-point barrier for State and actually drew a derisive round of applause from the UNC student section on the floor.
The Tar Heels used a 23 to 11 rebounding advantage, and 13 to 1 on the foul line, to run out to a 56-40 lead at the half. They finished the game with a 41 to 27 rebounding margin and 31 to 15 edge on the foul line.
There is something about N.C. State that brings out the best in Maye. His senior season hasn’t exactly gone as planned but his best ACC scoring game before Tuesday was the first meeting in Raleigh (21 points) and his career-high is 33 points from a UNC win in Raleigh last year. Three of Maye’s four career 30-point games have come against the Wolfpack.
Rebounding and defensive transition were tops on the scouting report, N.C. State forward Wyatt Walker said. He said the problem for N.C. State on Tuesday had nothing to do with Saturday’s epic loss to Virginia Tech.
“Too be honest, we just try to move on from it and focus on the next game,” Walker said. “I think it was more this game and not executing the scouting report like we thought we would.”
UNC’s offense was in high gear all night. In particularly beautiful sequence, every player on the floor touched the ball before freshman Coby White (21 points) splashed in a wide-open 3 at 8:44 in the first half.
Maybe N.C. State can learn from UNC how to handle a loss. The Tar Heels were embarrassed by Louisville here on Jan. 12, 83-62. It was the most lopsided home loss of Roy Williams’ tenure.
Williams has found the right formula since then. The Heels have reeled off six straight wins, including payback win at Louisville last Saturday.
“They had some things they needed to clean up and they worked on it and they got better at it,” Keatts said in comparing where UNC was after the Louisville loss to his current predicament. “Certainly, we need to do some of the same things.”