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No. 25 Notre Dame beats NC State in first game for fired Gottfried

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The last time Notre Dame was in the state of North Carolina, the Fighting Irish were heading home with four straight losses.

This time they’re leaving with momentum and a solid chance to secure a double-round bye in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

V.J. Beachem scored 27 points and hit a career-high seven 3-pointers to help No. 25 Notre Dame beat North Carolina State 81-72 on Saturday, giving the Fighting Irish their fourth straight win to keep them in a crowded race for the top-four finish and the bye that comes with it next month in Brooklyn.

Compare that to two weeks earlier, when the Irish lost 83-76 to North Carolina in Greensboro for their fourth straight loss.

“It seems like a long time ago, I think,” said Steve Vasturia, who scored 11 points. “Obviously that took a lot from us to kind of step up and getting that first win (after the skid) was huge. And you look at us now, we’re in great position, especially with this bye week coming up.”

Notre Dame (21-7, 10-5) faced a tricky scenario, too. N.C. State was playing its first game since the announcement that coach Mark Gottfried is out after the season, adding an extra bit of emotion and the uncertainty of whether the Wolfpack would respond with a last-stand kind of effort.

As coach Mike Brey noted, the Wolfpack won at Duke last month in a sign of its potential.

“I talked to them very openly,” Brey said. “I said, `You know fellas, I think we’re going to get their Duke effort tonight. There’s no more speculation, they’ll rally a little bit I think.”

Notre Dame used a 9-0 run late in the first half to build a double-digit margin, led 41-28 by halftime then pushed it to 23 points from there. The Fighting Irish shot 50 percent and made 13 of 30 3-pointers.

Dennis Smith Jr. scored 16 points for N.C. State (14-14, 3-12), which thrice rallied within seven points late before suffering its seventh straight loss since the Duke win.

This one came two days after the school announced Gottfried won’t return for a seventh season as a once-promising season continued to unravel.

Gottfried heard a smattering of boos during pregame introductions before Wednesday’s 97-73 loss to 10th-ranked rival North Carolina. He heard only cheers Saturday, though there was a smaller crowd that included at least a half-dozen empty upstairs seating sections in PNC Arena.

Notre Dame never trailed after the opening minute, with Beachem in particular finding plenty of room to operate in comfort as the Irish built that big lead then held on late.

“They came out and it’s been a tough couple of days, no doubt about it, tough for them,” Gottfried said. “And that can go either way. But I thought they came out and showed great spirit.”

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: Notre Dame has won four straight games to regroup from a four-game skid and keep the Fighting Irish in the hunt at the top of the league standings.

N.C. State: The Wolfpack at least fought back from the 23-point deficit to make it close, something the team hadn’t done in five other losses by at least 24 points this season.

BEACHEM’S OUTING

Beachem, a 6-foot-8 senior, finished 10 for 16 from the field and made 7 of 12 3-pointers in 38 minutes.

“Honestly I love playing in this arena,” Beachem said. “This is one of my favorite arenas to play in, and the guys were finding me. Even when they went to that zone, the guys were finding me. And I was just stepping up and shooting the way Coach shows me to.”

FREE THROWS

The Fighting Irish came in leading the country in shooting at the foul line (81.6 percent). They finished just 10 of 12, but made 6 of 7 in the final minute to turn away the Wolfpack’s comeback bid.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish get an eight-day break before hosting Georgia Tech on Feb. 26.

N.C. State: N.C. State visits Georgia Tech on Tuesday.

VIDEO: Jay-Z’s nephew posterizes nation’s No. 1 recruit Marvin Bagley III

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Nahziah Carter is an unsigned 6-foot-6 wing in the Class of 2017.

He’s also Jay-Z’s nephew, and he just so happened to posterize Marvin Bagley III — the clearcut No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018 — while Hova was in the stands watching him.

NCAA denies extra-year request by NC State guard Henderson

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The NCAA has denied North Carolina State guard Terry Henderson’s request for another year of eligibility.

Henderson announced the decision Friday in a statement issued by the school.

The Raleigh native played two seasons at West Virginia before transferring to N.C. State and redshirting in 2014-15. He played for only 7 minutes of the following season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

As a redshirt senior in 2016-17, he was the team’s second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and made a team-best 78 3-pointers.

Henderson called it “an honor and privilege” to play in his hometown.

SMU gets transfer in Georgetown’s Akoy Agau

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SMU pulled in a frontcourt player in Georgetown transfer Akoy Agau, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Agau is immediately eligible for next season as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau started his career at Louisville before transferring to Georgetown after one season. Spending two seasons with the Hoyas, Agau was limited to 11 minutes in his first season due to injuries. He averaged 4.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.

Coming out of high school, Agau was a four-star prospect but he’s never lived up to that billing in-part because of injuries. Now, Agau gets one more chance to make a difference as he’s hoping to help replace some departed pieces like Ben Moore and Semi Ojeleye.

South Carolina loses big man Sedee Keita to transfer

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South Carolina big man Sedee Keita will transfer from the program, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 Keita was once regarded as a top-100 national prospect in the Class of 2016, but he never found consistent minutes with the Gamecocks for last season’s Final Four team.

Keita appeared in 29 games and averaged 1.1 points and 2.0 rebounds per game while shooting 27 percent from the field.

A native of Philadelphia, Keita will have to sit out next season before getting three more seasons of eligibility.

Although Keita failed to make an impact during his only season at South Carolina, he’ll be a coveted transfer thanks to his size and upside.

Mississippi State losing two to transfer

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Mississippi State will lose two players to transfer as freshmen Mario Kegler and Eli Wright are leaving the program.

Both Kegler and Wright were four-star prospects coming out of high school as they were apart of a six-man recruiting class that is supposed to be a major foundation for Ben Howland’s future with the Bulldogs.

The 6-foot-7 Kegler was Mississippi State’s third-leading scorer last season as he averaged 9.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Kegler should command some quality schools on the transfer market, especially since he’ll still have three more years of eligibility after sitting out next season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Kegler’s loss is also notable for Mississippi State because it is the second consecutive offseason that Howland lost a top-100, in-state product to transfer after only one season after Malik Newman left for Kansas.

Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard, was never able to find consistent minutes as he was already behind underclass perimeter options like Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Tyson Carter last season. With Nick Weatherspoon, Quinndary’s four-star brother, also joining the Bulldogs next season, the writing was likely on the wall that Wright wasn’t going to earn significant playing time.