RALEIGH, N.C. — Markell Johnson had career highs of 27 points and five 3-pointers to help North Carolina State upset No. 7 Auburn 78-71 on Wednesday night.
Devon Daniels scored all 15 of his points after halftime for the Wolfpack (10-1), who led nearly all night before pushing ahead for good in the final 10 minutes.
N.C. State shot 58 percent after halftime behind Johnson and Daniels. Johnson stood out with 19 points after the break, including a run of 10 straight points — a 3-pointer, a four-point play and pullup 3 in transition — during one critical 75-second sequence.
By the time Daniels scored twice followed by Johnson’s layup, the Wolfpack had pushed the lead to a dozen near the four-minute mark on the way to another big upset under second-year coach Kevin Keatts.
J’Von McCormick scored 14 points for the Tigers (9-2), who shot 48 percent but committed a season-high 25 turnovers.
Auburn: The Tigers just made too many mistakes. Auburn started cold to get in an early hole, then warmed up only to repeatedly commit turnovers that frittered away any momentum they put together. And finally, the defense that came in ranked 19th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency never found a way to slow Johnson’s roll, nor Daniels after halftime.
N.C. State: Talk about a measuring-stick win. The Wolfpack’s only loss had come in a close game at No. 16 Wisconsin. And N.C. State had beaten power-conference opponents Penn State and Vanderbilt in what has otherwise been one of the nation’s softest non-conference schedules. That left plenty of question about exactly how good this group is (or isn’t). Wednesday’s answer proved to be the former, with Johnson beating Tigers defenders all night and Daniels turning in a huge second-half performance.