NC State goes to 10-1 with big win over No. 7 Auburn
Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 20, 2018
By Aaron Beard
AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina State has another big win against a ranked opponent under Kevin Keatts.
Markell Johnson had career highs of 27 points and five 3-pointers to help the Wolfpack upset No. 7 Auburn 78-71 on Wednesday night, improving to 4-1 against top-10 teams under the second-year coach.
N.C. State (10-1) beat second-ranked Arizona in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, as well as highly ranked neighbors Duke and North Carolina in Keatts’ debut season. Add Auburn to that list in Year 2, thanks to Johnson’s all-night brilliance and Devon Daniels’ huge second half in front of a loud home crowd.
“I think we know how good we are as a team,” Daniels said, “and if we just keep on competing every night and every day in practice, we’re going to get where we want to get.”
N.C. State shot 58 percent after halftime behind Johnson and Daniels, who had 15 points after a scoreless first half. 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.
It wasn’t simply a matter of the Wolfpack snatching the game at the end, either. N.C. State led for nearly 38 minutes. Auburn led for 44 seconds.
“I thought we fought for 40 minutes,” Keatts said. “That’s what I’ve been asking them to do.”
J’Von McCormick scored 14 points for the Tigers (9-2), who shot 48 percent but committed a season-high 25 turnovers while missing 20 of 25 3-pointers.
“I thought their guards were terrific,” Tigers coach Bruce Pearl said. “Johnson was as good as advertised. He was a dominating guard on the floor. … We had an advantage on the front line. We did not take advantage of our advantage. We turned the ball over way too much, we took too many ill-advised shots.”
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.
“We didn’t guard how we normally guard,” McCormick said, adding: “I felt at times we pressed up a lot, and then at times (Johnson) really got to where he wanted to get on the court.”
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 nonconference schedules. That left plenty of question about exactly how good this group is (or isn’t). Wednesday’s answer proved to be the former.
“I’m excited where we’re at, guys,” Keatts said. “Look, we didn’t accidentally become 10-1.”
This could give N.C. State a shot to land in Monday’s AP Top 25 poll, even as Keatts shrugged off any rankings talk. Besides, last year’s team never cracked the Top 25 despite the impressive wins yet still landed in the NCAA Tournament.
“I know you guys don’t believe this — I really don’t care about rankings,” Keatts said. “If I’m in the Top 25, OK. If I’m not, OK.”
Johnson and Daniels combined to make 13 of 18 shots after halftime, with Johnson making all four of his 3-point tries.
“In the second half,” Keatts said, “I thought Markell and Devon were playing H-O-R-S-E for a while.”
Auburn controlled the boards and was aggressive on the offensive glass after halftime (13 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points). Yet the Tigers also made just 6-of-12 free throws for the game.
“I thought they played more physically than we did,” Pearl said, adding: “We didn’t get to the line enough. We did not handle the contact very well.”
Auburn: The Tigers host Murray State on Saturday.
N.C. State: USC Upstate visits the Wolfpack on Saturday.
NO. 3 TENNESSE 83, SAMFORD 70
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jordan Bone set career highs with 24 points and 11 assists, and No. 3 Tennessee beat Samford 83-70 for its fifth consecutive victory.
Bone shot 11 of 16 and committed only two turnovers. Admiral Schofield scored 18 points and Grant Williams had 13 of his 16 points after halftime to help the Volunteers (9-1) snap Samford’s three-game winning streak. Kyle Alexander added 10 points.
Ruben Guerrero had 16 points and eight rebounds before fouling out for Samford (10-3). Kevion Nolan scored 13 points, Myron Gordon had 12 and Josh Sharkey added 10.
NO. 5 VIRGINIA 69, SOUTH CAROLINA 52
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Ty Jerome had a season-high 25 points and No. 5 Virginia added to its perfect start with a victory over South Carolina.
The Cavaliers improved to 10-0 for the first time since they opened with 19 straight wins on their way to the Atlantic Coast Conference title for the 2014-15 season. They showed off their usual stout defense while sending the Gamecocks (4-6) to their third straight loss — and second in a row to a No. 5 team after falling at then fifth-ranked Michigan on Dec. 8.
NO. 11 FLORIDA STATE 95, NORTH FLORIDA 81
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Mfiondu Kabengele scored a career-high 24 points and No. 11 Florida State pulled away for a win against North Florida.
Kabengele made 7 of 12 shots from the floor, 10 of 10 free throws and pulled down seven rebounds as Florida State (10-1) earned its fifth straight victory. Terance Mann had 17 points, including several alley-oop dunks, as the Seminoles dominated inside. They finished with 64 points in the paint.
NO. 13 VIRGINIA TECH 82, NORTH CAROLINA A&T 60
BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half, and No. 13 Virginia Tech beat North Carolina A&T for its fifth consecutive victory.
The Hokies (10-1) went 15 for 17 at the free-throw line and enjoyed a 42-20 rebounding advantage over the Aggies. Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Justin Robinson finished with 14 points, seven boards and six assists.
Quavius Copeland scored 16 points for North Carolina A&T (4-7), and Milik Gantz had 14. The Aggies finished with 14 turnovers.
NO. 17 MISSISSIPPI STATE 98, WOFFORD 87
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Lamar Peters and Aric Holman each scored 19 points, and No. 17 Mississippi State beat Wofford for its seventh consecutive win.
The Bulldogs (10-1) rallied from a 12-point deficit early in the second half. Quinndary Weatherspoon made 14 of 15 foul shots on his way to 18 points, and Nick Weatherspoon and Reggie Perry each had 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Fletcher Magee scored 24 points for Wofford (9-4), and Cameron Jackson finished with 20. Nathan Hoover had 15 points for the Terriers in their first-ever meeting with Mississippi State.
NO. 22 INDIANA 86, CENTRAL ARKANSAS 53
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Devonte Green scored 19 points, freshman Romeo Langford recorded his second double-double and No. 22 Indiana beat Central Arkansas.
The Hoosiers (10-2) have won five straight, though this was their first victory by more than three points during the streak. They’ve also won eight straight home games. Langford had 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
Hayden Koval had 16 points as the Bears (4-7) lost their fourth game to a power-conference team this season. Central Arkansas, Scottie Pippen’s alma mater, is 0-7 against Big Ten teams since joining Division I in 2006-07.
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