Luke DeCock

Miami gets hot, and NC State gets burned, and that’s how it goes in the ACC

North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts protests a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. Miami won 86-81.
North Carolina State head coach Kevin Keatts protests a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. Miami won 86-81. AP

Any scouting report on Miami would say to let the Hurricanes beat you from deep, just as long as they don’t get to the rim, because they have a bunch of future NBA players who can make things happen off the dribble.

Miami, which came into Sunday’s game at N.C. State shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point range, went 10-for-19 from long distance. Some of that had to do with the Wolfpack’s defense and some of it with a Miami recommitment to sharing the ball after a two-game losing streak, but if Miami’s going to make more than half of its 3s on a regular basis, the Hurricanes will be cutting down the nets in Brooklyn.

And believe that: Miami has talent. The issue is how it all fits together. There’s no reason the Hurricanes can’t win the ACC title, if they play as a team like they did Sunday in an 86-81 win over N.C. State. They just haven’t often enough this season.

So for N.C. State, this is one of those moments where you tip your cap and move on: If you dare a team to beat you from deep, and it does, then you have to live with that. There were certainly things the Wolfpack could have done better at both ends of the court, but a five-point loss in a game that could have gone either way means that things came down to a possession or two, and N.C. State couldn’t make the plays it needed the way it did against Wake Forest, the way Clemson couldn’t against N.C. State.

That’s the ACC in January. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it snows.

“It would have been a lot of people that said we weren’t capable of winning the games that we won,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said. “One or two possessions here or there today and we would be 4-3 instead of 3-4. I’m happy with this team. These guys are fighting, they’re clawing, I’m excited to watch them play. They’ve gotten better. They’re going to continue to get better.”

Fans will, inevitably, focus on the timeout generously given to Miami with 50 seconds to go and Chris Lykes in questionable possession of the ball, but that was merely one inflection point of many. N.C. State, which was down by 12 with 6:11 to go, got it within a possession twice in the final two minutes but gave up a Brice Brown layup the first time and a dunk after the disputed timeout the second time.

“I think we were right there,” Torin Dorn said. “They didn’t blow us out or anything. One or two plays, you’ve got to get one stop here or one stop there and the game is turned the other way, and they’re asking Miami why they didn’t. We just couldn’t get over the hump today. We’ve got to be better than that.”

What the game lacked in defense it made up for in entertainment, with Miami’s lineup of Ja’Quan Newton, Brown, Lonnie Walker, Anthony Lawrence and Dewan Huell lacking a bit at point guard but overflowing with scoring ability. (The Hurricanes will be better in the long run when 5-7 freshman Lykes earns the trust of his teammates.)

N.C. State’s Omer Yurtseven continued his offensive onslaught, going for 28 this time on 12-of-16 shooting, the Wolfpack’s go-to player in the post with Abdul-Malik Abu benched for the twin infractions of foul trouble and defensive indifference. But Markell Johnson was really more representative of the Wolfpack offense, with 14 assists but too many ill-advised dribbles into cul-de-sacs leading to six turnovers. 

It sounded a little odd to hear N.C. State’s players console themselves with the thought that they weren’t blown out, but many of them are aware they would have been blown out in a game like this last season, and that the application of effort and diligence gave them a chance to win anyway on a day they begged Miami to beat them from deep … and Miami did.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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