Coach K calls North Carolina’s HB2 “embarrassing”

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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski had short but strong words about the North Carolina bill HB2 that cost Duke a home opponent, has thrown the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte into jeopardy and has sparked outcry from around the country.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Krzyzewski told USA TODAY of the bill that requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The state is currently locked in a legal battle over the bill after the Department of Justice deemed in in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

“That’s all I’m going to say about it,” Krzyzewski said while at USA Basketball training camp in Las Vegas.

The Blue Devils’ scheduled November matchup with Albany in Durham was cancelled due to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order that bars non-essential state travel to North Carolina in response to HB2. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has threatened to move the league’s 2017 All-Star weekend if the bill remains.

Another coach from within the state shared Krzyzewski’s sentiment.

“I’m against any law that allows discrimination, whether that’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation,” NC State coach Mark Gottfried told USA TODAY. “I don’t understand how someone can support this. I think the people at N.C. State, we believe in inclusion. Being a resident of the state, for me and my family, it’s been frustrating.”

Four-star combo guard becomes NC State’s fourth 2016 commit

Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP
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With Cat Barber moving on to the professional ranks and freshman Dennis Smith Jr. returning to the court after missing all of last season with a torn ACL, adding another player capable of handling some point guard duties would help NC State in 2016-17. Monday afternoon Mark Gottfried’s program received a commitment from a player who can help the Wolfpack on the perimeter, as combo guard Markell Johnson announced that he’ll be joining the ACC program.

Johnson, who announced the news via his Twitter account, is a 6-foot-1 guard who’s ranked 40th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com. Johnson announced that he would reclassify from the 2017 class to 2016 in early May, and as a result many high major programs intensified their pursuit of the Cleveland, Ohio native’s services.

Johnson played with the King James Shooting Stars grassroots program during the spring on the Nike EYBL circuit. His commitment gives NC State a second option in that role along with Smith, and as noted above Smith is comign off of a torn ACL.

“Markell Johnson is an explosive athlete with a great first step and he should step in and form a tough backcourt duo with fellow incoming freshman Dennis Smith,” noted NBC Sports recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Johnson can be shaky with his perimeter jumper and decision making, but he’ll be very tough to keep out of the paint and his commitment gives the Wolfpack another guard who can make plays off the dribble.”

Johnson joins Smith, forward Darius Hicks and center Omer Yutseven in NC State’s 2016 freshman class. And after there was a great deal of concern regarding the NC State roster in the immediate aftermath of the 2015-16 season, thanks to a combination of transfers and NBA Draft early entrants. But with Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya withdrawing from the Draft and the program’s hot spring on the recruiting front, the Wolfpack have the depth and talent needed to return to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season.

Reports: NC State forward BeeJay Anya withdraws from NBA Draft

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Forward Abdul-Malik Abu wasn’t the only key player to decide that he’ll be returning to NC State for the 2016-17 season Thursday.

According to multiple outlets fellow forward BeeJay Anya has also decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft, giving the Wolfpack another boost in the front court. As a junior he averaged 4.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, continuing to improve from a stamina standpoint. Anya played just over 23 minutes per game last season, up from the 19.4 minutes per game he played as a sophomore.

With Turkish forward Omer Yurtseven and Darius Hicks signing with NC State, a team that at one point looked to be in significant trouble thanks to some transfers should be fine next year in the front court with Lennard Freeman returning as well. NC State will also add talent on the perimeter, with five-star point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and Charlotte transfer Torin Dorn joining the ranks and a healthy Terry Henderson being available after missing most of last season.

They’ll join rising sophomore Maverick Rowan, who averaged 12.8 points per game

How good can NC State be next season? Smith, who missed his senior year with a torn ACL, will be key in that regard. If he hits the ground running, the Wolfpack can make a return to the NCAA tournament after missing out a season ago. And that will likely be the preseason expectation for this group, even with the ACC once again setting up to be a very tough league.

Cat Barber, NC State front court handle No. 15 Miami

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NC State junior Cat Barber has been one of the nation’s best point guards, and Saturday afternoon he added another piece of evidence to that argument by scoring 30 points in the Wolfpack’s 85-69 win over No. 15 Miami.

With the 30 points Barber reached that mark for the third time in the last four games, shooting 10-for-18 from the field and 10-for-10 from the foul line to go along with four assists against the Hurricanes. Given the importance of Barber to NC State he’s on the receiving end of a lot of attention from opposing defenses, but against Miami that didn’t matter as the junior was able to get to his preferred spots off the dribble throughout the game.

However it wasn’t perimeter play that cost Miami, as the Hurricanes received solid performances from its perimeter rotation including Sheldon McClellan (18 points) and Angel Rodriguez (15 points, six assists) What ultimately cost the Hurricanes was the fact that their front court was outworked by NC State throughout the day.

Kamari Murphy and Tonye Jekiri combined for ten points and nine rebounds, and Ivan Cruz Uceda went scoreless in his ten minutes off the bench. By comparison the NC State tandem of Abdul-Malik Abu and Caleb Martin combined for 32 points and 14 boards, with BeeJay Anya contributing seven rebounds. NC State limited Miami to 39.7 percent shooting and closed out many of those possessions with a rebound, grabbing 88.6 percent of the Hurricanes’ missed shots.

Add in a 34-20 edge in points in the paint, and NC State won the game by controlling the action within the most valuable piece of real estate on the court.

Given NC State’s lack of depth their margin for error is small, and it forces Barber to play major minutes while also being asked to both score and distribute the basketball. But there’s still talent at Mark Gottfried’s disposal, and when they’re clicking NC State is capable of taking advantage. Miami, which needs more from its big men moving forward, found that out the hard way.

No. 5 UNC beats rival NC State 67-55 for 5-0 ACC start

Associated Press
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks attacked the rim, scored through contact and kept throwing himself on the floor for loose balls.

“It was just total effort,” coach Roy Williams said.

The fifth-ranked Tar Heels needed every bit of it against rival North Carolina State, too.

Meeks scored 18 of his 23 points after halftime to help UNC beat N.C. State 67-55 on Saturday, extending the program’s best conference start in 15 years.

While UNC’s best scorers – and the team as a whole – struggled to find a flow, the 6-foot-10 Meeks provided the push as the Tar Heels (16-2, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) gradually pulled away from a halftime tie.

It was Meeks’ second game back after missing seven with a knee injury. He returned last weekend at Syracuse, then returned to the starting lineup Saturday.

“I had the whole week off, I went as hard as I could those last few days of practice,” Meeks said. “I really got after it, got back in the lineup. It’s all a confidence thing for me, so I got back in the second half and really tried to play as big as I could.”

He made 8 of 10 shots after halftime and blocked two shots while repeatedly diving on the floor.

“I asked him, `Did you really dive those three times or did somebody trip you?”‘ Williams joked afterward.

Abdul-Malik Abu had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the Wolfpack, who controlled tempo and attacked the glass early to build momentum and keep UNC off stride.

But with the teams tied at halftime, the Tar Heels pushed ahead with a 16-4 second-half run that featured Meeks scoring over long-armed BeeJay Anya inside – the kind of shots Anya erased in last year’s 58-46 win here by the Wolfpack.

N.C. State (10-8, 0-5) has its worst start in ACC play since going 0-8 in 1996-97.

“We’re not going to pout and mope,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. “They’re not going to do that and we’re not going to let them. I’ve said this many times: `You watch this game today, I think you have a hard time walking away from here saying `N.C. State’s a really bad team.’ … But we’re a team that has to get over the hump.”

TIP-INS

N.C. State: Maverick Rowan and Cody Martin, who started over twin brother Caleb, both scored 10 points. … N.C. State shot 40 percent. … The Wolfpack had 18 turnovers. … Anya had three blocks after swatting six here last year.

UNC: Joel Berry II had 14 points, including two 3s during the 16-4 run. … UNC came in as one of the nation’s best-shooting teams at 50 percent, but finished a season-low 37.9 percent. … UNC went 5 of 20 from 3-point range. … The Tar Heels scored 17 points off turnovers.

CONTAINING CAT

ACC-leading scorer Anthony “Cat” Barber (22.5 points) had a rough day with a season-low nine points. The Wolfpack point guard didn’t score after halftime, finishing with more turnovers (5) than field goals (4) or free throws (1) in 35 minutes.

UNC’S BALANCE

The Tar Heels’ top three scorers – Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson – combined for 15 points on 6-for-24 shooting. But UNC and USC were the only teams with six scorers currently averaging in double figures through Thursday’s games, according to STATS. That balanced showed Saturday.

“The difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is we’re dynamic and flexible enough offensively to not sink in a game like that when our best players are struggling,” Paige said.

UP NEXT

N.C. State travels to No. 20 Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

UNC hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

No. 16 Louisville beats NC State 77-72 to go to 2-0 in ACC

Associated Press
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Quentin Snider scored a career-high 21 points to help No. 16 Louisville beat North Carolina State 77-72 on Thursday night.

Freshman Ray Spalding had 12 points off the bench for the Cardinals (13-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). They shot 51 percent and used a 9-0 run in the second half to build a double-digit lead before having to hang on against a frantic comeback by the Wolfpack.

The Cardinals led by 16 with 3:38 left only to see the Wolfpack (10-5, 0-2) crawl to 75-72 on Anthony “Cat” Barber’s three-point play with 16.8 seconds left.

But Damion Lee hit two free throws with 3.5 seconds left to seal it, holding on in a finish that was much tighter than expected.

Barber scored 20 points to lead N.C. State. The Wolfpack fell to 0-2 in the ACC for the first time under fifth-year coach Mark Gottfried.

N.C. State appeared headed to a blowout loss when Snider hit two free throws to make it 71-55 with 3:38 left, but the Wolfpack eventually got two 3-pointers from Caleb Martin followed by another off a turnover from Maverick Rowan that closed the gap to 71-67 with 40.4 seconds left.

Barber got the Wolfpack even closer with his three-point play and had a chance to tie when Lee missed two free throws.

But Barber collided with defender Chinanu Onuaku on a drive in the paint – the referees said Onuaku went straight up – and the ball went out of bounds. The call was originally for N.C. State with 7.5 seconds left, but referees reversed it after a replay and said it went off N.C. State.

Lee was fouled on the inbounds and hit the clinching free throws, finishing with 13 points on the night.

TIP-INS

Louisville: Onuaku had 12 points and 14 rebounds. … The Cardinals beat the Wolfpack in last year’s NCAA Sweet 16. … Louisville made 7 of 13 3-pointers.

N.C. State: Rowan scored 17 points, and Abdul-Malik Abu had 15 points and 12 rebounds. … The Wolfpack shot 36 percent. … N.C. State held a “blackout” with the home team wearing black uniforms.

UP NEXT

Louisville travels to Clemson on Sunday.

N.C. State travels to Wake Forest on Sunday.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org