NC State's Keatts: 'Every game that we win, I think it builds confidence'
A year after any ACC win was a major accomplishment for N.C. State, first-year coach Kevin Keatts has the Wolfpack racking up road league wins like a team worthy of traveling for the big tournament in March.
N.C. State built a 14-point second half lead and held on to defeat Wake Forest, 90-84, at the Joel Coliseum on Saturday.
Having won 74-70 at Syracuse on Wednesday night, NC State (18-9, 8-6 ACC) has back-to-back road wins in league play for the second time this season. After going 15-17 and 4-14 in ACC play last season, N.C. State is moving closer to earning its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2015.
“We know that every win is key for us,” N.C. State guard Markell Johnson said. “The goal is to win out.”
Against Wake Forest (10-17, 3-12), the Wolfpack took home the win despite 29 points from Wake Forest guard Bryant Crawford and 23 from Demon Deacons center Doral Moore.
N.C. State countered with four double-figure scorers, led by guard Allerik Freeman’s 24 points and 21 from center Omer Yurtseven. Torin Dorn scored 14 points and Markell Johnson had 10 points with 10 assists.
“What we are doing as a team now is we are starting to trust in our teammates,” Keatts said.
The Wolfpack shot 50.8 percent, including 11 of 24 (45 percent) on 3-pointers.
“We are a team that has mental toughness,” Yurtseven said. “That’s what it took tonight.”
Despite Crawford’s 19 first-half points for Wake Forest, N.C. State led 40-34 at halftime.
The Wolfpack quickly pushed its lead into double figures with solid 3-point shooting in the early minutes of the second half.
Freeman, Johnson and Yurtseven hit 3-pointers, with Yurtseven’s shot giving N.C. State a 51-40 lead with 15:45 to play.
Yurtseven’s jump shot at 9:21 completed his run of seven consecutive points for N.C. State and gave the Wolfpack a 65-41 lead.
N.C. State led 76-64 with 3:49 to play before Wake Forest made a late surge. N.C. State made 12 free throws in the final 1:14 to hold off the Demon Deacons.
After Wake Forest took a 10-4 lead, the Wolfpack founds its groove to bolt into the lead. A pair of 7-0 runs allowed NC State to move in front as the Wolfpack scored on 11 of 15 possessions over an eight-minute stretch. Seven different N.C State players scored during that time as the Wolfpack showed patience on offense to get quality shots.
When Sam Hunt hit a 3-pointer from the right corner at 5:35, N.C. State built its largest lead of the half at 32-23.
N.C. State’s offense hit a cold spell, though, as the Wolfpack scored just two points during a four-minute stretch. Wake Forest, behind Crawford, cut the NC State lead to 34-32.
Hunt and Freeman hit 3-pointers on back-to-back Wolfpack possessions in the final 1:11 of the half allowing N.C State to lead 40-34 at halftime.