N.C. State outlasted No. 10 North Carolina, 95-91, for a huge ACC road win on Saturday afternoon.
Using hot three-point shooting and solid efforts from four players in the lineup, the Wolfpack (15-7, 5-4) earned a signature road victory for first-year head coach Kevin Keatts.
Allerik Freeman (29 points) and Torin Dorn (20 points) were both reliable scorers while Markell Johnson (18 points, 11 assists) and Omer Yurtseven (16 points, 13 rebounds) both put up double-doubles. The Wolfpack shot 15-for-30 from three-point range for the game, often matching North Carolina’s high-octane offense by hitting clutch shots down the stretch.
N.C. State’s guards were tremendous on Saturday, matching the North Carolina backcourt while also limiting Joel Berry II (six points, 3-for-12 shooting). Realizing that North Carolina’s defense doesn’t have a consistent rim protector, the Wolfpack guards played in constant attack mode while kicking out to open shooters when the North Carolina defense collapsed. Yurtseven, with six offensive rebounds, including a key putback in overtime, was there to clean up any misses using his size and touch around the rim.
At this current juncture, N.C. State doesn’t appear to be an NCAA tournament team, but a road win at a top-ten team certainly gives this team another life. The bubble is incredibly soft once again and the Wolfpack are going to have ample opportunities to earn quality wins to potentially play themselves in — including a home game against these same Tar Heels on Feb. 10.
North Carolina (16-6, 5-4) has been sluggish in ACC play as they drop another winnable game they should have taken at home. With Berry playing a subpar game, Luke Maye (31 points, 12 rebounds) and Theo Pinson (25 points, 15 rebounds) both played inspired outings but it ultimately wasn’t enough to get the win. The Tar Heels had some troubling lapses on defense as their switching on high ball screens hurt them in the final few minutes.
At what point do we start to get concerned about North Carolina? The Tar Heels have had some struggles on the road while also losing home games to teams like Wofford and N.C. State as they’re now in the middle of a deep conference. The schedule going forward doesn’t look too daunting for North Carolina but they still have a road game at Clemson and two against Duke.