RALEIGH — Jericole Hellems had a career night and North Carolina State earned some revenge. The Wolfpack’s marquee nonconference home game was anything but a flop.
Hellems scored a career-high 23 points and North Carolina State beat Wisconsin 69-54 on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Markell Johnson finished with 12 points and C.J. Bryce added 11 for NC State (6-2).
Johnson beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer from midcourt that started the 29-14 run that put the Wolfpack in control and helped them avenge last year’s 79-75 loss to the Badgers (4-4) in Madison — a game that NC State fans thought was marred by a series of flops.
“It stung a lot,” Devon Daniels said. “That was a big game for us last year. We knew we lost that game so coming in this year we just tried to lock in the whole week leading up to the game, really focus on making it tough for them and I think we did that.”
NC State hit five 3-pointers during that run — including two by Hellems — and Bryce buried one that put the Wolfpack up 58-44 with 10 minutes left. Wisconsin didn’t get closer than nine the rest of the way.
“I think it was important for us to show teams and show everybody that we are a good team and we can hang with the best of them,” said Hellems, who set a career scoring high for the second straight game and surpassed the previous best of 17 points he set last Thursday in a loss to No. 16 Memphis.
“I thought we got well tonight,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “We bounced back.”
Aleem Ford finished with 13 points, and Kobe King and Nate Reuvers added 11 apiece for the Badgers. They entered shooting 81% from the free-throw line as a team, ranking fifth in Division I, but were just 4 of 12 in the second half and finished at 47%.
Wisconsin’s shooting percentage was in the 30s for the third straight game — all losses. The Badgers finished this one at 38%.
“Even tonight at the free-throw line … it’s rare for us to not put the ball in the basket there,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “We forced some tough jump shots that they made. … The difference was, we made 11 3s last year. We’ve got to score. It’s a simple game. Whether guys are pressing right now or it’s weighing on them mentally, we’ve got to fight through it.”
Wisconsin: The Badgers, who rank 28th in Division I in adjusted defensive efficiency, struggled against an NC State offense that ranks 16th in adjusted offensive efficiency and plays at a much faster pace. Wisconsin allowed NC State to score on nine of 11 possessions during that 7-minute stretch midway through the second half that pushed its lead to 14.
NC State: The Wolfpack put arguably the ACC’s best sixth man into the starting lineup, giving Daniels his first start since the opener against Georgia Tech in place of Bryce. In six games as a reserve, Daniels averaged 12.8 points. He’s the only one of the ACC’s top 25 scorers who typically doesn’t start and finished this one with six points in 25 minutes.
Brad Davison was booed every time he touched the ball, or even entered the game, by the NC State fans who remembered all too well how the Wisconsin guard drew a handful of charges — or, in their opinion, repeatedly flopped — during the Badgers’ win. Then, with NC State’s victory a formality in the final minute and Davison on the bench, the students chanted “We want Brad.”
Brooklyn, New York, was not kind to either team last week. Wisconsin went 0-2 last Monday and Tuesday in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. Two days later in the same building, NC State lost to No. 16 Memphis in the Barclays Center Classic.
Wisconsin: Plays host to Indiana on Saturday in its Big Ten opener.
NC State: Visits Wake Forest on Saturday in its first ACC road game.