In a game that had many questions leading up to it, you can’t help but wonder how head coach Kevin Keatts felt heading into Tuesday night’s game.
“This game worried me for the last 48 hours,” stated Keatts. “Trying to get our guys to play the team and not the record. They have guys that can really shoot it if they get hot.”
Notre Dame (9-12, 1-9) has been in close games all season, but can’t get over the hump. Tonight wasn’t much differet as the NC State Wolfpack (16-5, 6-4) found a way to get a 85-82 recovery win after dropping their last game to UNC.
Neither team opened the contest in much of an offensive rhythm with the Fighting Irish holding a 10-6 lead at the first media timeout. NC State opened the contest 2-11 from the field, including 0-3 from Terquavion Smith who started the contest after leaving the Wolfpack’s last game versus UNC early due to a hard fall.
The Wolfpack caught a wave after the timeout pulling ahead, followed by a 9-0 run to take a 25-14 lead forcing an ND timeout with just over 10 minutes left before the half. A quick switch to a 2-3 zone by the Irish slowed down NC State – allowing the Irish to slice the Wolfpack lead to just 25-21 at the under-eight media timeout.
NC State’s struggles continued as Notre Dame pulled ahead 35-31 before going into the locker room with a 42-39 lead after trailing by as many as 11 in the first stanza.
A 10-4 run to start the second half put NC State back in front, 49-46, at the under-16 media timeout. Between the next eight minutes of play, both teams traded baskets, leaving NC State with a slim 63-59 lead with just over eight minutes left in regulation. A huge three from Casey Morsell extended the NC State lead to 72-68 at the last media timeout.
Notre Dame cut the State lead to 76-73 with 1:53 left with a pair of free throws. After missing out on multiple chances to tie the game, including a three with just over 40 seconds left, Jarkel Joiner iced the game at the line with a pair – making the score 85-79 before a buzzer beating three from ND made the final 82-79.
Four NC State players finished in double figures with Joiner leading the way with 28 points, followed by Smith with 17 (11-13 free throws). Burns added 14 points, while Morsell chipped in 11 points. For the game, ND outshot NC State 52% to 41%, but the Pack held the advantage at the charity stripe – making 23 of their 27 attempts compared to just 17-21 for the Irish.
The Wolfpack return to the court Saturday January 28 as they face in-state foe Wake Forest. Tip off is slated fo 1 PM in Winston-Salem.