Shorthanded NC State rallies past Campbell

The Wolfpack shook off the COVID rust that contributed to their first loss to get back in the win column

North Carolina State's Jericole Hellems (4) battles Campbell's Cedric Henderson Jr. (45) for the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — It took awhile — and some angry words from head coach Kevin Keatts — but NC State found its groove against visiting Campbell on Saturday afternoon and pulled away for a 69-50 win at PNC Arena.

The Wolfpack, which had just nine healthy players available for the game, struggled early, trailing by as many as seven points midway through the first half. The Pack rallied and led by a mere two points at halftime, which earned them a scolding in the locker room.

“We talked about what we weren’t doing,” Keatts said. “I didn’t think we played hard enough. I didn’t think we disrupted their offense. We didn’t create enough opportunities for ourselves. I didn’t think we were aggressive enough. We settled for things. So we talked about it. I pointed out a couple things that weren’t going well and a couple guys that weren’t playing up to their capabilities, and they came out and responded.”

The rant worked, as the Pack came out of the locker room with a 9-2 run and outscored the Camels 20-7 to start the second half.

Three thoughts

1. Campbell’s disciplined offense gave the Pack fits in the first half. The Camels shot 47.8% from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

“Coach jumped on us in the second half, mostly just harping on our energy,” said NC State guard Devon Daniels. “That’s a nice team over there. They compete hard. They run the Princeton offense to a T. We felt like we weren’t bringing energy to the max or competing to the level we were capable of.”

2. State returned to the court on Thursday after an unscheduled two-week break due to COVID. A total of four scheduled games were canceled or postponed. Then the Pack had two games in a three-day stretch, which led to some dead legs, especially with only nine players available. State also felt the mental strain.

“Thursday was our first game back in two weeks,” Daniels said. “Our mindset wasn’t where it should have been. We didn’t lock in as detailed as we’re supposed to. We have to live in the moment. That moment is done. We reflected on it, learned from it, now it’s on to tomorrow.”

3. State outrebounded Campbell 44 to 23, which helped fuel the Pack’s break. The Wolfpack had 11 fast-break points in the game and 13 second-chance points.

“The whole season, coaches have been on that point for us,” Daniels said. “We’ve got to take the initiative and start grabbing boards so we can get out in transition. If we don’t rebound, there’s no fast break. That’s part of who we are.”

Number to Know

100 — Manny Bates blocked his 100th shot in his 34th career game, setting a school record as the fastest Wolfpack player to reach the century mark.

“I’m excited for him,” Keatts said, “because I don’t have a record like that. I don’t even have a record for assists or scoring or anything. So he’s my hero today.”

They Said It

“Halftime was very entertaining. I still have some strong vocal cords. I’ll say that.”

— Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts

Player of the Game

Jericole Hellems, NC State forward — The sophomore led the Wolfpack with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He added seven rebounds and a team-high five assists.

“I’m called the energy guy,” Hellems said. “Whatever I can do to help get the guys going, I’m going to do.”

Critical thinking

DJ Funderburk, Cam Hayes and Chase Graham were among the players not available for the Wolfpack, leaving NC State down 21.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

“Once we get our full team back, we’re going to shine,” Daniels said.