RALEIGH — Exactly a month after losing by 30 points at Notre Dame, NC State beat the Irish by 18 points at PNC Arena, 76-58.
“We’ve come so far, and you can see the progress that we’ve made based on the swing of the points scored,” said Torin Dorn, who scored a game-high 21 points for NC State.
The Pack has won six of eight games in the 31 days since that trip to South Bend, including wins over No. 2 Duke and No. 10 UNC.
“What a difference a month has made,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you look at it, when we went to Notre Dame, I thought it was our worst game of the season. Nothing went right.”
On Saturday, everything seemed to go the Pack’s way. State scored the first nine points of the game and never trailed, building a lead that reached 30 at one point in the second half. The Pack scored 21 points off 15 Notre Dame turnovers, eight of which were the result of NC State steals.
“It shows how we pick up the full court and what that can do to people’s stamina,” said Braxton Beverly, who scored 16 points and had six assists. “A lot of players don’t understand it until they experience it.”
“We take pride in getting stops,” Keatts said. “We talk about winning four-minute wars, during media timeouts we talk about getting stops and deflections and that’s good a freshman says that, it means we are going in the right direction.”
Markell Johnson added 10 assists, the fourth straight game he’s hit double digits.
“I think we’re believing in ourselves,” Keatts said. “We have trust in our teammates. If you look back at our games, we had 20 assists on 30 made field goals. Anytime we share the basketball, we can be a special basketball team. I say this all the time; we don’t have the one guy who can go for 30 in every night, so we have to play well together, and I think we’re starting to figure it out.”
The Wolfpack helped improve their resume for a potential NCAA berth, something that seemed unlikely until the run the team has made in the last month. State also was able to successfully follow up its upset of UNC at the Smith Center from last weekend.
“It was a scary week for me, because after playing well at North Carolina you want to continue to play, but we needed rest,” Keatts said. “We were able to take Sunday and Monday off and then get back in the gym on Tuesday, and it certainly paid off for us. I thought we were fresher. I thought our guys played with great energy.”
The Pack was also able to make the 88-58 blowout loss to the Irish a distant memory, a process that was helped in large part by Keatts’ decision not to review film of the game with the team.
“I don’t have that type of team,” he said. “We didn’t watch the Notre Dame game. I watched it about 10 times and got scared every time I watched it. With these guys we stay in the moment.”
NC State will travel to Virginia Tech on Wednesday, followed by a home rematch with the Tar Heels on Saturday, as the new-look Pack hopes to continue its run of success.
“I’m excited about this bunch,” Keatts said. “I feel like we’re getting better every game and obviously today was a special day for us.”