N.C. State basketball got back into the win column on Wednesday night after beating a beleaguered Miami team.
For the first time since January 20th, the Wolfpack are winners. N.C. State basketball notched just its third road win of the season in ACC play on Wednesday night, defeating an injury-plagued Miami team 83-72. The Pack has lost three in a row coming into Coral Gables, and were recently knocked out of Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four In” for the NCAA Tournament. Seniors CJ Bryce and Markell Johnson led the way against the Hurricanes, as Bryce put up 22 points while Johnson added 19 more to go along with a season-high 12 assists. State now moves to 6-6 in the conference and 15-8 overall.
After dominating most of the night, N.C. State nearly allowed Miami to retake control of the game.
Despite getting off to a bit of a slow start against a poor opponent, the Wolfpack managed to right the ship and take a 12-point lead into halftime. State continued its good work throughout the early portion of the second half; however, they nearly squandered a massive lead after the game appeared to be in hand.
With just under 13 minutes to play, the Wolfpack held an 18-point lead and had dominated the Canes for most of the night. Within a five-minute period, though, State saw its lead shrink to just three with seven minutes remaining. They committed four turnovers during the Miami run, and turned the ball over a whopping 17 times in all. Fortunately for the Pack, they outscored Miami 16-8 over the game’s final seven minutes, making five of their eight field goals and going a perfect six-for-six from the free-throw line.
The Wolfpack had its first 80-point game since mid-January, despite playing part of the game without DJ Funderburk.
N.C. State hadn’t scored 80 points in a game since the first meeting with Miami, and that was nearly a month ago. Much of the reason for State’s offensive success on Wednesday night was their ability to knock down threes. The Wolfpack made nine threes—including four from Braxton Beverly—against the Canes, tying the teams’ previous matchup for State’s second-best three-point performance of the season. If N.C. State, who is among the worst in the conference in terms of three-point percentage, can start making shots from deep, it’ll help their tournament chances dramatically.
Perhaps the most impressive part about State’s offensive onslaught on Wednesday night was the fact that they did it without much production from DJ Funderburk. The star forward came into the Miami game as the team’s second-leading scorer, and had scored at least 10 points in 12 of his last 14 games. Funderburk took only three shots against the Canes, and was forced to leave about midway through the second half after taking an elbow to his eye from teammate Manny Bates. Following his exit, Pat Andree and Danny Dixon were called into action. Luckily for Funderburk and the Pack, N.C. State doesn’t play again until next Tuesday at Syracuse, so he should have plenty of time to rest up.
Like any win, especially at this time of year, Wednesday’s victory gave the Wolfpack’s tournament chances a much-needed boost.
While a win over Miami is nothing to write home about, winning on the road in the ACC is never something to be taken for granted. Entering Wednesday, State hadn’t won in almost three weeks, and was beginning to slide out of most NCAA Tournament projections. This win certainly isn’t going to save them, as a victory over Duke or Florida State is almost assuredly the Pack’s only hope of getting in. With that being said, though, N.C. State had fallen outside the top 50 in both BPI and the NET Rankings, so the win at the very least helps buoy those all-important metrics.
Fortunately for the Wolfpack, they will have an opportunity to improve their resume over the final stretch of the regular season, with games against Syracuse, FSU, two against Duke, and a rivalry matchup in Chapel Hill. State will undoubtedly have to win at least a couple of those games to even be considered for the tournament, but even then that may not be enough. They’ll have their opportunities as the regular season winds down, but if they can’t manage a marquee win between now and March 6th, there’s always the ACC Tournament. The win at Miami doesn’t do much for N.C. State’s overall body of work, but it certainly gets them pointed in the right direction just in time for some crucial upcoming games.