Video: NC State basketball coach Kevin Keatts discusses Wolfpack win over Louisville

Raleigh, NC – The win against Louisville on Saturday evening moved the NC State Wolfpack to 21-10 overall and 11-7 in the ACC, the best ACC record for NC State since 2012-13 and tied head coach Kevin Keatts for the most regular season wins as a first-year head coach. Keatts spoke to the media after the win.

180303 nc state basketball coach Kevin KeattsHead Coach Kevin Keatts

(Opening Statement)

“I’m excited for our seniors. When you think about Malik (Abu) and you think about Lennard (Freeman), those are two guys that welcomed me into their program. It was their program before I took over as head coach, and so I’m proud of those guys. Both of those guys have kind of sacrificed their game a little bit for the team, and certainly us winning 21 games and 11 conference games means a lot to those guys.

“When you think about Al Freeman and Sam Hunt, I also want to thank those guys because those guys came and trusted in me before I coached one game here. So it’s a special evening and a special night for those guys because it doesn’t always work that way on Senior Night. You don’t always have the chance to get a win. We talked about that before the game, and I talked to the underclassmen. I told them that one day, they will be in this situation, and I wanted them to play as hard as they could for the seniors to give them an opportunity to win their last game in PNC.

“When you look at the game, I thought both teams were a little flat in the first half. I thought it lacked energy. I told our guys to just stay the course, and in the second half if you stay together and we find the energy and we play hard, I thought we could win the game. Give those guys credit. I thought we did it on the defensive end. We shared the basketball. We really took care of the basketball. When you look at it, we had 12 assists on 26 made field goals and only had four turnovers.

“It’s been a great regular season for us. I want you to think about something. We were 10-3 in the non-conference, and our fifth game into our season, we were able to beat the number two team in the country, Arizona. We started off the ACC play. We lost to Clemson by 17 or 18, then went to Notre Dame and obviously lost by 30, so for these guys to bounce back and win 11 games, it says a lot about the character of the kids that are in that locker room.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On what the team accomplished during the regular season)

“Yeah I’m excited about the way we’re playing. If you think about it, winning five out of six games to end the regular season…that says you’re playing very good basketball. Our guys are starting to figure it out. We’re sharing the basketball. I’ve talked about this all year long. When you look at our team, in order for us to be successful, we have to play together, and I think our guys are starting to understand that. We’ve got to be a high assist team and a low turnover team and take good shots, and we’re starting to do that.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On the turnover battle)

“We’ve talked about taking care of the basketball every game. That’s a very good basketball team. They’re long, they’re athletic, but we were able to force them into some bad situations. I thought our defense was as sharp as it’s been in a long time, meaning that we were locked in on the defensive end. Even when we weren’t scoring the ball in the first half, I thought our defense was good.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On the turnaround from the game against Georgia Tech)

“These one-day turnarounds are tough. For three years, I had to do it in the CAA. We would play Thursday games then have to turn around and play Saturday games. The lucky thing for us (is) we didn’t play Thursday and then have to play a twelve or two o’clock game. On Friday, we watched a lot of film, and we went on the floor for about an hour, and we tried to clean some things up.

“In one-day prep, you’ve got to rely on how hard you play as opposed to what the team is running because you don’t have the chance to kind of go over everything they may run, and so I had to rely on some of our older guys to obviously pick up some things just by watching film, and I thought we did a good job. We cleaned up a lot of mistakes that we made on Thursday.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On the run that allowed them to control)

“I’ve said this all along, and I think you guys are starting to believe it now. We’re in better shape than most teams towards the end. (I’m) not saying that Louisville is not in great shape. I’m just saying that, based on our guys, we typically close games pretty well, and I thought we did tonight.

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On still playing Omer Yurtseven after missing a few easy shots)

“A lot of coaches would have said it’s not his night and wouldn’t have played him because he was struggling early. But listen, I got to go with the guys that got us here, and that kid has had a tremendous year. We left him, and give him a lot of credit. I thought he did a tremendous job on the defensive end. What did he have? Five blocks? Playing against Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding. They’re one of the two top blocking guys in the country, and I thought he was just as good as those guys in the defensive end.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On whether NC State is a NCAA tournament)

“I don’t know. The committee will have to decide that on next Sunday. We look like one. I can tell you that now. We have answered every question that NCAA teams have in the past. The past was all about how you finish the season. Well, we finished the season well. It’s about can you win on the road. Well, we won on the road. It’s about who you beat and when you beat them. We’ve beaten five top 25 teams, at least four top 20 teams, so we got 11 wins in the ACC. I’m going to let you guys make the case. I am just stating some facts.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On moving around on offense)

“We run a lot of ball screens. It’s tough when teams like Louisville can switch one-five. Anas (Mahmoud) is able to sit down and guard your guards. It’s tough on you. We wanted to get a lot of ball movement and player movement and not watch and stand there. Even when we threw the ball inside, we wanted to have guys cut off of them. I thought we did a good job. I thought we found our stride in the second half, even though in the first half we scored 33 points. We are a more explosive offensive team, and we were able to get good looks. “

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On how much gratitude is owed to the senior class this season)

“Oh, I mean a lot. When Dr. Yow hired me, we talked about our roster, and we didn’t know who we would have. We obviously lost a lot of pieces from last year, a lot of really good basketball players that I would have liked to coach. At the end of the day, the guys that have decided to stay in this program have battled, and we are making NC State something we are proud of. We punch the clock every time we play.

We may not be the most talented team, but we’re going to play hard. Those guys, I give them a lot of credit. Omer Yurtseven could have stayed in the draft or played professional basketball somewhere. Lennard Freeman could have decided to be a fifth year, Malik (Abdul-Malik Abu) could have decided to transfer and even have one year to play. So I give those guys a lot of credit. Without those guys, we would not be here.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On what he is most proud of this entire season)

“I am proud of this group because we have been able to take a group that most people say we couldn’t win or weren’t tough enough. What do you guys call it? That NC State ‘stuff’? What is that? I don’t know what that is. The NC State stuff — we’ve been able to stuff the stuff, and I would like to not hear the NC State ‘stuff’ anymore after this regular season. I am proud of these guys. My assistant coaches have done a tremendous job.

“I had the question the other day … they say, ‘This is the second time you have taken over a program and won in year one.’ And I said, ‘I had a lot of practice.’ When I was the head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, we never had anybody back. I had a different team every year. I am not telling you that I won’t have any of these guys back, but I am used to teaching from day one. If you are a basketball coach, you want to be a teacher. That’s what I pride myself in: teaching.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On what grade he would give himself as a teacher)

“That’s not up to me, but I know you will grade me soon. You know, I don’t take all the credit for this. I give the credit to everybody around the program. Our fans are tremendous. I give Dr. Yow (credit) for giving me the opportunity to coach here. Our players and family…I thank the Lord for the opportunity.”

Head Coach Kevin Keatts

(On going to the ACC Tournament for the first time)

“I am excited about it, but not to where you think I’m overwhelmed. I am not going over there goo-goo eyed because I am playing in the ACC Tournament. I have played everybody that’s there. I am excited for it. I am excited for the opportunity. I am excited to see what my guys can do in the tournament.”

 

Abdul-Malik Abu, Forward
(On how he feels about this being his last game)
“It’s out of body. I can’t believe it. From where I started everything, my college career, I never imagined I would have made it this far. I’m just grateful. That’s my one feeling.”

Abdul-Malik Abu, Forward
(On the team getting through a rough shooting start)
“We just had to keep grinding and do what we did in practice.”

Braxton Beverly, Guard
(On what the team did to be successful against Louisville)
“We put a big emphasis on defense. Thats a big thing we have talked about the last two days, and that’s how we have been successful all year.”

Braxton Beverly, Guard
(On what made the defense better tonight)
“We realized we didn’t do what we were supposed to do last game. We were upset at ourselves, so we wanted to come out and get it back to normal.”

Omer Yurtseven, Center
(On where the team has gone since last season)
“It gets you emotional, thinking about last year and this year. We as a team have come a long way.”

Omer Yurtseven, Center
(On staying mentally sharp despite mistakes)
“It’s just about, as you said, keeping your head in the game. It’s all mental. That’s all I focus on. I just say I’m going to go out there and do the best I can, fight my battle.”

Omer Yurtseven, Center
(On maintaining poise coming into this game after a loss)
“We just got stops to be honest. It was a team effort. It took all of us.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(Opening Statement)
“Well, we knew it was going to be tough to come down here and win. This team obviously has been very, very good at home this year, and they’ve been playing well. We just turned the ball over too much in the first half. We had 11 in the first half, and we shot 50 percent in the first half, but we gave them the ball 11 times without getting the chance to score. So, in the second half it seemed that no matter what we tried defensively, we just couldn’t get the stop. They made some obviously very timely threes and got a couple of timely rebounds that they capitalized on. It’s very impressive what Kevin (Keatts) has done with that team this year. There’s no question. For them to finish 21-10 and 11-7. I think he has done a very good job, but we give them a lot of credit, and now we’ve got to get ready to go up to New York and try to do some damage up there.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On the turnovers)
“I think it was a little bit of carelessness. They got us back on our heels there for a while. We were trying to run our offense darn near half-court. Anas (Mahmoud) got it knocked out of his hand a couple of times. They stripped us a couple of times, careless, nonchalant with the ball. And we knew coming into the game that they were going to be aggressive with their hands, slap down hard, try to get deflections because that’s what they’ve done all year. Those 11 in the first half definitely hurt us. We did a better job in the second half, but 11 in the first half were big.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On being frustrated with careless mistakes by a veteran group)
“We just, I don’t know, we made a couple of plays tonight that we just normally don’t make on the offensive end of the court, just some turnovers that just were a little bit out of character for us. I don’t know if it was them causing them or us just making mental mistakes, but that can be frustrating. We tried to chip back, but there in the second half, we just couldn’t get a stop, and then we had a couple rim out on us, but that’s just the way the game goes sometimes. If you don’t defend and you don’t take care of the ball on the roadm it’s going to be tough to win.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On how the team responded after Thursday)
“That’ll probably be a better question for them to answer. Thursday night was obviously very difficult, but that’s not an excuse for why we won the game tonight. We played a very good team on the road on (their) Senior Night, and we made some mistakes, and they really capitalized on it. It seemed like they really capitalized in the first half off of our turnovers, and then in the second half, a couple offensive rebounds, a couple defensive mistakes and they capitalized on it. They hit those threes, and those were just kind of back breakers because you get a little bit of momentum, you come down, you make a mistake, and they hit another three and momentum’s over.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On if NC State was on or if it was Louisville’s lack of defense in the second half)
“I think a little bit of both. A couple of times we got lodged to where the ball, one of their guys would drive it in the lane, come to a jump stop, and we would turn and stare at the ball, and the guy would move and then got open for a three. (We) just didn’t stay alert for the whole shot clock. When you do that against a team like this that can shoot the ball like that, they’re going to make you pay for it. I think we cut it to four or six, and I think they got two or three offensive rebounds in one possession and then scored, so it’s just tough. When you give them that many opportunities to try and score, it’s going to be tough.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On what happens when guys get in scoring droughts)
“Honestly, tonight in the first half, it was turnovers, obviously, but in the second half, I thought we got about four or five really good looks, and a couple of them even spun out. I think Deng (Adel) got a jump shot at the free throw line. Ray (Spalding) missed a post move inside. I think we had a three spin out on us. It’s just the way it goes sometimes. When that happens, you have to try and be even better defensively, and we just couldn’t get stops. They shot 52 percent in the second half and got to the free throw line 15 times.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On playing FSU in Brooklyn and where the team is)
“Yeah, I mean I told them. I said, ‘Look, have we done enough to get into the tournament at this moment in time?’ I personally believe we have. Unfortunately, that’s not my decision. We finished 9-9 in toughest league in the country, playing a top-20 schedule. We have a couple of very good road wins, and we don’t really have that “bad win”. But again, that’s not for me to decide, but what I did tell them after the game was, ‘Look, we can’t leave it up to chance. If we go up to New York, and we can win a couple of games, then all of the sudden we can get to 20, 21, maybe, wins, and then all of the sudden it makes you look even better.’ So that’s just what we have to do. We can’t go up there and get knocked out in the first game and leave anything up to chance. We have to go up there and just battle and try to come out of there with a few wins.

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On their rotation in ACC)
“Well, your rotation has to get shorter. I used the same rotation the other night and played the best basketball we’ve played all year and the same rotation versus Virginia Tech, so I don’t think our rotation is why we lost the game tonight.”

Louisville Head Coach David Padgett
(On what they do to prepare for ACC tournament)
“Well, we are going to take tomorrow off, but Monday, we will come back to work. Obviously, we played them twice, so we will have some familiarity with them. Each road team won their games. I know they had a good win today against Boston College, and they are a very talented team. We had to come back from a 17-point deficit at their place to get a good win, and they came in and scored I think 80 points on us at home. We’ve just got to look at it and see where we need to make some corrections and just put together another game plan. We’ve got to go there and compete for 40 minutes because as you guys know, in postseason games on neutral courts, anything can happen.”