Wolfpack Rewrites History With Win At Wake

Brett Friedlander

WINSTON-SALEM -- The good thing about history, at least the kind as it pertains to sports events, is that it can always be rewritten with the outcome of the next game.

So it is with the NC State basketball team.

The Wolfpack came into its game at Wake Forest on Saturday having lost six of its previous trips to Joel Coliseum. None of that mattered, though, the way this particular State team played over the course of the first 38 or so minutes.

Coach Kevin Keatts' team shot 54.5 percent from 3-point range, put six players in double figures and accomplished its goal of beating the Deacons on the offensive glass before surviving a shaky finish and an injury to sophomore Jericole Hellems for a 91-82 victory.

The win improved the Wolfpack's overall record to 7-2, but more importantly gave State its first ACC win of the season -- almost a necessity after losing its season opener to Georgia Tech at home.

"I thought our guys did a tremendous job of coming in here on the road and getting a good road win," Keatts said afterward. "When you think about the fact that we felt like with the opening game of the year that we gave away an ACC game, I talked to those guys about going on the road and we had to figure out how to get one back."

Unlike last year, when it fell behind by as many as 22 points to the Deacons before staging a furious but unsuccessful comeback, State built on its win against Wisconsin on Wednesday by jumping out to a quick early lead this time.

The fast start was build around some hot perimeter shooting. 

And virtually everyone contributed.

In one sequence just after the first TV timeout, C.J. Bryce, Devin Daniels and Markell Johnson hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to help the Wolfpack open up a 14-4 lead.

When all was said and done, five different players had made treys led by Braxton Beverly with four and Hellems with three. State's 12 treys were a season high, surpassing the 10 it made against both Detroit Mercy and Little Rock. 

And it did so on just 22 attempts, a high percentage Braxton Beverly attributed to an emphasis on making the extra pass to find open shots.

"It definitely helped us against Wisconsin, even though we didn’t have a high-assist game," said Beverly, who was a perfect 4 for 4 from distance. "They were almost like hockey assists or just a kick and a drive. We’re always trying to get better, playing for each other and finding that open man to make it easier for our offensive game."

Once the first couple went in, Daniels said that the shotmaking became contageous.

Bryce, who came off the bench for the second straight game, led the way with 18 points. Beverly finished with 15, Johnson 14 and Hellems 13 before being taken to the hospital for precautionary measures with 28 seconds remaining after coming down hard while chasing down a rebound.

'Daniels with 12 points and D.J. Funderburk with 11 were the other double figure scorers while freshman Manny Bates also had a strong effort with eight points (on 4 of 4 shooting), three rebounds and four blocked shots."

"The ball was moving, so there were a lot of open shots and we just shot with confidence," Daniels said. "When you make the first few, you shoot the rest of the game like you can't miss."

Even with shooting better than 50 percent for the game as a whole, the Wolfpack did actually miss a few shots Saturday.

But when it did, it rebounded those misses as well as it has all season.

That was an emphasis coming into the game against a Wake Forest team near the top of the ACC rankings in rebounds with a plus-5.67 margin. Not only did State outrebound Wake 33-29 but 12 of those boards came on the offensive end, leading to 21 second chance points.

The rebounding disparity also helped the Wolfpack attempt 13 more field goal attempts than the Deacons.

State also forced 19 turnovers, leading to 27 points and did a good job of limiting the effectiveness of all the Deacons other than point guard Brandon Childress, who led Wake with 30 points.

"I love the way that we’re playing," Keatts said. "With this team, it has been a little bit slow developing roles. I think guys understand now what I expect from them, and what we expect from them as a coaching staff. They’re starting to understand their roles and how to play. I’m happy with the way our guys are playing."

While State's effort was good enough to pick up a rare win in Winston-Salem and was celebrated with Keatts' traditional stop for ice cream afterward, it was hardly a perfect performance.

The Wolfpack committed 17 turnovers -- four more than it had in the past two games combined -- and nearly let its opponent back into contention with a sloppy finish.

It led by 17 in the second and was still up by 11 with 50 seconds remaining before Wake (5-5, 0-2 ACC) turned up the heat on its fullcourt press and State's inability to convert at the free throw line to score six straight points and narrow the gap to a little as six at 86-80. 

"They're a good team," Daniels said. They're not going to make it easy for us to win the game. We had to compete. We were kind of sped up at the end, but we came out with the W so we're just going to have to learn from it, watch the film and see what we can do better."