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NC State holds off Pitt to snap 3-game skid

PITTSBURGH (AP) — North Carolina State opted for modified shootaround late Friday night after arriving in Pittsburgh. No plays. Just shots. Lots and lots of shots, not the worst idea in the world less than a week removed from a record-setting loss to Virginia Tech in which the Wolfpack managed just nine baskets in 40 minutes.

Head coach Kevin Keatts jumped in the fray during the laidback session, pointing out he might have been the best shooter on the floor. While his players don’t quite remember it that way — guard Braxton Beverly claims Keatts was “extending the truth” — either way it created the desired effect. The Wolfpack walked onto the Petersen Events Center floor loose, kept their composure when the host Panthers made a second-half push and held on for a 79-76 win to snap a three-game losing streak.

The Wolfpack (17-7, 5-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) let a 14-point lead briefly get away in the middle of the second half before relying heavily on Beverly, C.J. Bryce and Markelle Johnson to pull through. Bryce scored 21 points, including three free throws in the final 10 seconds. Beverly added 17 behind five of N.C. State’s season-high 14 3-pointers and Johnson finished with 10 points and a season-high eight assists.

After being limited to just 24 points — the fewest ever by a team ranked in The AP Top 25 (the Wolfpack were 23rd last week) in the shot-clock era — last Saturday, N.C. State is averaging 87.5 points over its last two contests.

“We know we can score,” Bryce said. “We have very talented players. We have players who can go get buckets if we need it. We were just focused on playing as a team tonight and I think we did great at that.”

Bryce went to the line with the Wolfpack (17-7, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) holding onto a 76-75 lead with 9.9 seconds left. He calmly drained both free throws in front of the blacked-out T-shirt student section.

N.C. State opted to foul ahead by three. Pitt’s Sidy N’Dir made just one of two with 7 seconds remaining. Bryce grabbed his seventh and final rebound and made one of two with 5.5 seconds left. N’Dir collected the rebound and weaved his way through traffic but his off-balance 3-pointer from outside the top of the key was left all the way as time expired.

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