NC State gets return date with Duke in ACC’s

The Wolfpack beat Pitt in the ACC Tournament second round to advance

NC State's Jericole Hellems drives to the basket in the Wolfpack's 73-58 win over Pitt Wednesday in second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. (Robert Clark / North State Journal)

GREENSBORO — NC State gets another chance to add to its NCAA resume after advancing to a quarterfinal date with Duke.

The fifth-seeded Wolfpack took care of 13-seed Pitt with a 73-58 win in Greensboro on Wednesday afternoon. NC State led wire to wire, pulling away from a three-point halftime lead by outscoring the Panthers 38-26 in the second half.

NC State, who seems to be firmly on the edge of the NCAA bubble, with ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi having the Pack as one of the last four in and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm having them as the first four out, got the chance to add a win to its ledger, but likely not one that will raise the eyebrows of the Selection Committee.

Thursday will be a different story. The No. 10 Blue Devils, the tournament’s fourth seed, would be an impressive win to add to State’s belt for a second time this season. NC State already pummeled the Blue Devils once, winning 88-66 in Raleigh, before losing the rematch in Durham, 88-69.

NC State’s D.J. Funderburk celebrates with teammates near the end of the Wolfpack’s win over Pitt Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Devon Daniels had his best game since that win over Duke, scoring 23, two off his career high of 25 against the Blue Devils, driving to the hoop and scoring on floaters. C.J. Bryce had a double double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Pitt tried to go to the zone defense, a tactic that worked well for Duke in the second game. State was able to score against the defense this time around, however, thanks to a bit of preparation.

“I told our guys, I figured whether we played Wake Forest or Pitt, there’s an opportunity to play against a zone,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “The reason being, in a tournament, when you play the day before, you don’t have time to go over people’s sets. So our anticipation was we’re going to see some zone from everybody we play. In the first half, we were not aggressive toward it. We talked in the second half about continuing to drive. We talked about offensive rebounding, and we did a good job.”

Having said that, Keatts knows better than to assume he knows what Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski will have in store.

“I have no idea what they’re going to play tomorrow,” he said.

The Wolfpack players are trying not to look too far ahead.

“Our team is not too focused on outside talk,” Daniels said. “We know we can’t go where we want to go unless we take care of the game at hand.”

“We can’t control the future,” Bryce said. “Obviously, it’s in the back of our heads. We feel, at this point, we have some pretty good wins on our resume. We’re trying to win the conference championship.”

That requires them to get past the Blue Devils again.

“We have to be focused, energized,” Daniels said. “Pay attention to the scouting report. Come out with a lot of energy.”

“We beat this team before,” Bryce said. “We definitely have the confidence we can do it.”