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Allerik Freeman leads the charge as N.C. State pushes toward NCAA tournament bid

NC State's Freeman: 'A win is a win is a win is a win'

VIDEO: NC State's Allerik Freeman talks about the Wolfpack's victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.
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VIDEO: NC State's Allerik Freeman talks about the Wolfpack's victory over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at LJVM Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

Allerik Freeman has yet to play a college basketball season that didn’t end in the NCAA tournament.

After three seasons at Baylor, the N.C. State graduate student is doing all he can to get the Wolfpack back to the tournament this season.

Freeman’s 24 points led N.C. State in a 90-84 win at Wake Forest on Saturday, giving the Wolfpack (18-9, 8-6 ACC) a pair of ACC road wins over the last four days.

The 6-3 guard from Charlotte, who came to N.C. State as a graduate transfer last summer, scored 17 points when the Wolfpack won 74-70 at Syracuse on Wednesday.

Winning on consecutive road trips only makes N.C. State’s case for an NCAA tournament at-large bid even stronger.

“We’re not done,” Freeman said. “We haven’t reached our peak. We are just trying to keep it rolling. Hopefully we can make something shake in March.”

Freeman leads N.C. State in scoring average at 14.2 points per game but it’s not been smooth ride to that numbers.

Yes he scored 24 points when N.C. State beat Arizona 90-84 at the Battle 4 Atlantis in November. He seven 3-pointers on seven attempts to score a season-high 29 points in a 95-91 N.C. State win at North Carolina on Jan. 27.

VIDEO: NC State coach Kevin Keatts talks about the play of Allerik Freeman after the Wolfpack's victory over Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

But since then he made just 3 of 13 shots, including 1 of 8 3-pointers, when the Wolfpack lost 85-75 at Virginia Tech on Feb. 7.

After the Wolfpack lost to the Tar Heels, 96-85, at PNC Arena on Feb. 10, the team faced consecutive road games where losses would damage its NCAA tournament hopes.

Freeman helped deliver the wins with his production and his presence.

He played 39 minutes at Syracuse, matching his season high with five assists in addition to making 7 of 14 shots from the field.

That game showed how much better Freeman is playing now, Keatts said. Where made 7 of 18 shots to score 24 points against Arizona in November, Freeman was a more efficient player at Syracuse.

“When you are a fifth-year guy and you switch schools and you are in a new system,” Keatts said, “you are probably going for force stuff early on. He’s learning how to trust other people. In the Syracuse game I thought he really grew up in that area. He trusted his teammates. He could have forced up a couple of shots but he didn’t.”

Against Wake Forest, Keatts said he saw more of the same. Freeman played 40 minutes and led the Wolfpack with eight rebounds while also tallying his 24 points.

When Wake Forest trimmed what had been a 12-point NC State lead with 3:50 to play to single digits, Freeman made five of six free throw attempts in game’s final 74 seconds to help the Wolfpack hold on.

“He played great,” Keatts said. “He’s played two great games. He’s been patient. He’s picked his spots. He’s become more mature. He’s become a leader. With his experience, he’s the only guy I have on my team that has actually played meaningful basketball this late in February. I think it’s starting to show.”

Just one year ago, while N.C. State was suffering through the final days under fired coach Mark Gottfried to finish 15-17, Freeman was helping Baylor to the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row.

He scored in double-figures in three of the final four games prior to the NCAA tournament. He scored 21 points when Baylor beat New Mexico State 91-73 in the first round on the way to a Sweet 16 appearance.

Over the past week, Freeman showed he’s heating up again with his team in need of wins to play even more meaningful games in March.

VIDEO: Though the NC State was the road team at LJVM Coliseum, Wolfpack fans made themselves heard during the game in Winston-Salem, NC Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

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