ACC NOTEBOOK: In N.C. State loss, bench was the real deal

North Carolina NC State Basketball-2

North Carolina State's Braxton Beverly attempts a layup ahead of North Carolina's Kenny Williams, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.


Sports Writer

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The statistical oddity of the night on Tuesday from No. 15 N.C. State’s 90-82 loss to No. 12 North Carolina came during the first 20 minutes of the game.

At the end of the first half, the Wolfpack had scored 35 bench points, with only seven points coming from their starters, while the Tar Heels had zero bench points in the first half.

By the end of the game, N.C. State’s bench had outscored UNC’s, 43-9.

“I probably needed to start the bench,” Keatts joked after the game. “Our bench has been tremendous. I like my bunch.”

The 35 first-half bench points, led by 15 from Braxton Beverly, were an outlier, but Keatts has so far found success in 2018-19 with a deep rotation. Nine Wolfpack players are currently averaging at least 15 minutes per game, while North Carolina has six and Duke has seven.

“They’ve given me tremendous effort everyday and they’re fighting,” Keatts said. “We won’t be defined by one game.”

‘A ninth grade basketball team’

Roy Williams’ biggest harping point after the victory on Tuesday was the amount of turnovers by the Tar Heels; they finished with 13 to N.C. State’s nine in the first half, part of the reason the Wolfpack was able to climb out of an early 12-0 deficit. Overall, UNC had 23 turnovers to N.C. State’s 13.

During his press conference, Williams likened his team’s play at times to a freshman basketball team — and a bad freshman basketball team at that.

“I was really mad at them at one point,” he said. I thought we were way too soft, we had some turnovers. We looked like a ninth grade basketball team at a bad school. I questioned their toughness. I told them, ‘This last six minutes, do what the heck I tell you to do and we’ll be fine.’”

Indeed, UNC buckled down and made all but one free-throw over the final three minutes to clinch the game.

Looks familiar

Williams left Tuesday’s game both impressed by N.C. State and cognizant of the two team’s similarities.

“I like their club, I like the way they played,” he said. “They play very similar to us, honestly.”

In terms of pace, North Carolina is fourth in possessions per game (80.8) in the nation and N.C. State is 24th, at 77.2 possessions per game.

On the defense…

On Tuesday, Duke traveled to Winston-Salem and left with an 87-65 victory over Wake Forest. The road ACC game was the first time Duke has played an away game this season on the opponent’s home floor. All others, including games against Kentucky and Gonzaga, have been on neutral courts.

Mike Krzyzewski was asked what he thought of the outside criticism of that fact, and was candid in his response.

“Our schedule, we play really good teams. That's the key thing,” he said. “We're trying to get ready for March. So where do you get a chance to play in huge neutral arenas against outstanding non-conference teams? You don't do it during conference. That's our plan.”