Another coach of some renown in our area, while amassing nearly 1,100 wins and a handful of NCAA titles, often refers to sections of a season as “energy cycles.”
Teams, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski says, go through ups and downs during a season and have to find a way to fight through them all to achieve success.
In his first season at N.C. State, Kevin Keatts is at the opposite end of his coaching career.
On Tuesday night, his Wolfpack was at the end of one of those energy cycles. It’s third game in seven nights was against a middling Boston College team headed nowhere. Again.
N.C. State, though, is heading somewhere big. The reason for that is the same reason the Wolfpack beat Boston College 82-66 at PNC Arena.
At the end of an energy cycle, knowing they had time off before playing again on Sunday night against Florida State, the Wolfpack players won handily on a night they didn’t play their best.
They fought through their dwindling energy to come out the other side carrying a three-game winning streak and NCAA tournament chances that have never been stronger this season.
N.C. State (19-9, 9-6 ACC) went scoreless on its first 12 possessions against Boston College. The Wolfpack, though, didn’t let those missed shots affect its defensive play.
So when N.C. State finally scored its first point six minutes and 21 seconds into the game, the Eagles only led 6-1.
With the seal broken, the Wolfpack proceeded to score on 13 consecutive possessions. With 5:36 to play in the first half, an Omer Yurtseven dunk gave the Wolfpack 13 consecutive made field goals and a 34-21 lead.
“We picked our energy up from the defensive side,” N.C. State freshman guard Braxton Beverly said. “We started getting stops, getting out running, getting easy ones. Once you do that, as you build momentum, the basket looks huge like you are not going to miss.”
With Beverly making five 3-pointers before he missed, N.C. State maintained its double-digit lead for all but a minute or two late in the game before finishing with a 16-point win.
Now, the Wolfpack get a bit of rest to gear up for the regular season’s finishing kick.
“We’re going to rest (Wednesday) and then I don’t know how much that I will do on Thursday,” Keatts said. “We may come back in on Thursday and do film work and get into the gym a little bit. But we are locked in.”
For the second time this season, N.C. State has won three ACC games in a row. That didn’t happen at all in the last two seasons, when the Wolfpack posted ACC records of 5-13 and 4-14.
N.C. State had one three-game ACC winning streak in 2015, the last time it played in the NCAA tournament.
The last time N.C. State won four ACC games in a row in the regular season was a dozen years ago in 2006 when Herb Sendek coached the Wolfpack.
This season is becoming historic.
Florida State (19-8, 8-7 ACC) presents the next obstacle for this N.C. State team. A game at Georgia Tech on March 1 and another at home with Louisville on March 3 follow.
The Wolfpack will have renewed energy for the Seminoles, ready to play another three games in seven nights, this time to close out the regular season.
N.C. State has knocked off teams it wasn’t expected to (Duke, UNC, Arizona, Syracuse, Clemson) and handled its business against lesser-talented teams (Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boston College).
Because of that, the energy is easy to find with March right around the corner.
“Guys are just locked in right now,” N.C. State senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu said. “We are happy to be here. We’re a family and we just want to keep the ball rolling.”