Wolfpack falls to Tennessee in third-place game
By Aaron Beard
AP Basketball Writer
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Tennessee started and finished the Battle 4 Atlantis the same way — with a win.
Grant Williams scored 14 points to help Tennessee beat North Carolina State 67-58 in Friday’s third-place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, capping a three-day stay in the Bahamas that began with an overtime win against No. 18 Purdue.
Jordan Bowden scored all 10 of his points after halftime for the Volunteers (4-1). That included a long jumper to beat the shot clock with 43.3 seconds left, keeping Tennessee in control down the stretch as the Wolfpack tried to mount a comeback.
Neither team played well in the first half, combining for 33 percent shooting and 28 turnovers. Tennessee ultimately converted enough N.C. State turnovers into scores to build a 30-23 halftime lead, then stayed in front with a cleaner performance through the second half.
“The bottom line is I like our team, I think our team likes themselves,” Volunteers coach Rick Barnes said. “And they want to be good. But I do think they played that first half like they had a big ol’ huge piano on their back.”
Tennessee shot 38 percent but made 8 of 18 3-pointers and scored 22 points off 21 Wolfpack turnovers, though 18 points came off the Wolfpack’s 16 first-half turnovers. The Volunteers cut their own turnovers down from 12 in the first half to four in the second, then did enough late to hang on.
“I feel like we executed a little bit up late, especially on the defensive end,” Williams said. “It’s just multiple stops, and that’s what we needed to do.”
N.C. State (5-2) opened its stay in the Bahamas with a headline-grabbing upset of No. 2 Arizona under new coach Kevin Keatts. But the Wolfpack couldn’t recreate that same edge in the next two games.
Allerik Freeman scored 14 points to lead the Wolfpack, though he shot just 4 of 18 from the field and 1 of 8 from behind the arc. N.C. State made just 3 of 16 3-pointers, and didn’t help itself by making just 13 of 22 free throws, either.
“You look at the next two games (after the Arizona win), I feel like we were never out of the game and we had opportunities to win both of those games,” Keatts said. “But I do think as a team, early on with a new staff and a bunch of new players, we have to go back to the drawing board and now we have to figure out obviously how not to beat ourselves.”
N.C. State: Keatts has talked often about building a culture around his team’s fullcourt pressure and a demand for his players to compete at all times. Wednesday’s 90-84 win against Arizona offered a best-case scenario of what can happen when his team plays with a fearless edge. But Thursday’s 64-60 loss to Northern Iowa followed by this one offer a reminder that Keatts will need time to change the Wolfpack’s fortunes.
“We did some good things, we did some bad things,” said forward Lennard Freeman, who had 11 points and six rebounds. “So we’ve just got to learn from it.”
Tennessee: The Volunteers opened the tournament with a comeback 78-75 overtime win against No. 18 Purdue, then built a double-figure lead on No. 5 Villanova before falling 85-76 in the semifinals. They never trailed in Friday’s finale to finish 2-1 and secure its best finish in an early-season tournament since finishing third in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in 2011.
Williams finished with six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals in 27 minutes. He had scored 22 and 20 points in the first two tournament games.
“We ask him to do a lot,” Barnes said.
N.C. State: Penn State visits the Wolfpack on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Tennessee: The Volunteers host Mercer on Wednesday.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap