Raleigh, NC – The NC State men’s basketball team defeated the No. 7 Auburn Tigers, 78-71, Wednesday night inside PNC Arena to improve to 10-1 on the season.
NC State is off to a best start to a season since the 2005-06 team started 12-1.
The Pack is now 4-1 under head coach Kevin Keatts against top-10 ranked teams.
NC State made five of its last six field goals in the closing minutes and shot 57.7% from the floor in the second half.
Markell Johnson led the Wolfpack in a career-high night with 27 points. Devon Daniels (15 points) and Braxton Beverly (15 points) followed suit as Beverly put up his third-straight double-digit game. Igniting the Pack in the second half, Johnson rattled off 13 points in the first 12 minutes of the closing half to give NC State a 57-49 advantage.
Shooting 50% from three-point range in the second half as a team, Johnson and Beverly went 9-for-13 from beyond the arc in the game.
Braxton Beverly and Markell Johnson started the night off hot for the Pack, combining for the team’s first 13 points of the game, with 8 points and 5 points respectively. During that surge, NC State went on an 8-0 run over a three-minute span to gain a 15-4 lead.
Auburn responded with a 16-3 run over five minutes to claim the lead, 26-25. The Tigers would only hold the lead for 44 seconds in the game.
Struggling from beyond the arc, Auburn went 0-for-5 from long range in the first half, but posted 24 points in the paint compared to NC State’s 6 points.
Beverly tallied 14 points in the half to steady the Pack, including shooting 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
December 19, 2018 Postgame Quotes
Coach Kevin Keatts
“This was probably the most pressure I have ever had going into a game. When they hand out 1,000 shirts that say “Kevin Keatts is a Winner” you better win that game or those shirts aren’t going to be good.
Give a lot of credit to Auburn. Bruce Pearl has put together an unbelievable team. After watching tape on those guys, I have said I believe they have Elite Eight or Final Four talent. They are tremendous, tough to guard, and very similar to us in the way that they pressure you.
It is unbelievable to look at. Both teams had 13 assists. We had 22 turnovers, which was uncharacteristic of us; we forced them into 25 turnovers and had seven steals. I thought our guys came out to play, I thought we competed, and I thought we fought for 40 minutes, which is what I’ve been asking them to do. It was a great program win for us and we want to continue to build on this.”
On Markell Johnson
“I want Markell Johnson to stay aggressive. I think he has the ability to be one of the best guards in the nation when he stays aggressive. For me, that is on both ends of the floor. I don’t like for him to take breaks. I like for him to stay engaged and get after it. I jumped all over him one time when he went under a screen and they made a shot. From that point on, he became very offensive-minded. I like where he is right now; he is competing hard for us. He is growing up before our eyes. It is hard to believe that he has been here for three years, but he is playing a great role for us.
The four guys that I really challenge are the four guys that have played for me before. I’m talking about Markell Johnson, Braxton Beverly, Torin Dorn, and CJ Bryce. Bryce played for me when I was at UNCW. Because we have so many new pieces, I need those guys to be leaders and I think they are maturing in that area.”
On the win
“We played well tonight. I love my team. I have said that all along. I think that we have a very good team. When you look at the guys that we have played, especially the four Power 5 teams, we could easily be undefeated against those guys.
Give our guys credit. I like our scheduling. We played two Power 5 teams on a neutral court. We went into one of the most hostile environments in the country in Wisconsin, and we had our chances to win. I thought Wolfpack Nation was great tonight.”
On Devon Daniels
“I thought he was great. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but in the second half I thought Markell Johnson and Devon Daniels were playing HORSE for a while. I think they scored all the points to start the second half, and he was really good. I give him credit. He could’ve pouted because he was coming off the bench. I felt like Braxton Beverly has been playing really great basketball since the Penn State game. I wanted to put him in the lineup, but we told Devon to stay ready. He stayed ready and he played well off the bench.”
On the defensive performance
“That’s the place where we’re maturing. When you think about today’s kids, they define how they’re playing by whether the ball goes in the hole or not. We’ve talked about if you’re not scoring, that’s not the end of the world, but make sure the other team isn’t scoring. I think we’re maturing in that area, and a lot of time it takes the air out of you. When we were up 16-6, I think Auburn struggled defensively because the ball wasn’t going in.”
On pulling out a close win
“I’m excited. We didn’t accidentally become 10-1. Our guys have worked extremely hard to get there. Hopefully, we’re going to continue to get better and stay hungry and stay humble. I’m excited.
I’ve said this before: if the Wisconsin game was a learning opportunity for us, I’ll take that loss any time if we’re going to continue to get better from it. “
On the team maturing/entering national conversations
“Are you sure we are going to get national exposure? I think we will be fine. We are going to stay in the moment. I am going to take their phones away so they can’t use Twitter or Instagram, or for any of you guys that still use Facebook, I’m going to take that away too.
If it happens, it happens. I said this before the game: I really don’t care about rankings. If I am in the top 25, that’s okay. If I’m not, I’m okay. I just look at the rankings when it comes time to pick the teams for the NCAA Tournament, and I want to myself and my team to have the opportunity to win the conference regular season and the ACC Tournament.”
On the win
“I think we take every game seriously. It doesn’t matter if they’re ranked or not. We just want to win. We’re happy and glad we got the win tonight.”
On slowing down Auburn’s backcourt
“They’re great players. Maybe they had an off night, or maybe we did something. The whole week we just emphasized playing them really hard and running them off the three-point line. I think we did that.”
On defensive pressure
“I think that drives our team. When we can get a live ball turnover, get down the court, run in transition, get open shots, and get to the basket, I think that helps us a lot.”
On the win placing the Pack in national conversations
“I don’t think we as a team really worry about too much national attention. We take care of our business and we work hard every day. When the opportunity comes to face teams like this, we’re ready.”
On if NC State should be ranked
“That’s above my pay grade. I let the powers that be decide that.”
On playing a ranked team
“We come out every game wanting to win and wanting to play dominant. Anytime you see a team with a number in front of their name, you want to play extremely hard, and you want to win. I think it’s our competitive nature.”
On the defense
“We work on pressure everyday, and that’s the kind of identity we have. They are a great team, but we were able to impose our will a little more than them.”
On having multiple offensive weapons
“It’s definitely good to have a deep team. Even if you have an off night like myself or CJ Bryce, you have guys that can pick up the slack for you and still win games. That’s the mark of a good team to have multiple guys that can come in and make a difference and make an impact.”
On the game
“It’s fun. This is what you come to college to play for: to get the big wins and to play in front of big crowds. We try not to look at any team more than the other. We don’t prepare any differently for any other team. We take it one game at a time.”
It’s nice and I think we learned a lot after that Wisconsin game. It was our first road game. We were right there with them, but just had a few things that didn’t allow us to get the win. I think it gave us a lot of confidence to show us what kind of team we have, and it carried over to this game.
I think it shows we definitely have a really good team. We are capable of doing really good things this year. We kind of feed off the doubt and we let people doubt us. We did last year and we had a great year last year. We’re doing the same thing right now.”
On the possibility of being ranked
“I’m not going to say it’s a really important thing for us on this team. Ranked or not, we are what we are. Putting a number by our name doesn’t really make us any better. We do that by putting in all the work behind the scenes in practice. However, that’s one thing you dream of when coming to college, is to play for a team that’s ranked in the top 25 and to be a team that everybody’s buzzing about. I think were very capable of doing that and I think we’re on the way to doing that right now.”
On the atmosphere
“It was good. There was a lot of energy in the crowd, and the fans were great. It felt really good to just come out of here with a win.”
On Coach Keatts
“In anything and everything, he wants the best out of you. It doesn’t matter what it is– he just wants to bring the best out of you.
Auburn Head Coach Bruce Pearl
“I want to congatuate NC State on a great win. They were well prepared and I thought their guards played terrific. Markell Johnson was as good as advertised; he was the dominating guard on the floor. Braxton Beverly made four three-pointers in the first half and Devon Daniels played very well. I thought their backcourt as a whole was terrific.
We had an advantage at the front line and didn’t take advantage of it. We also turned the ball over way too much and took too many ill-advised shots. NC State did a good job of extending and disrupting, but a lot of it was our poor execution. It was a good game and great win for NC State.”
On shooting from beyond the arc
“I thought they did a good job of pressing up. We didn’t move the ball very well, which led to it getting stuck too much. They extended well and jumped passing lanes, making it hard for us to reverse the ball. I thought they played more physical than we did. We only made six free-throws tonight, didn’t get to the line enough, and didn’t handle the contact well.”