CHAPEL HILL — After a 10-day hiatus, the NC State men’s basketball team extended its losing streak to four following a 86-76 loss to UNC-Chapel Hill on Saturday, Jan. 23.
The Pack (6-5, 2-4 ACC) was able to battle back after being down by as much as 14, cutting the lead down to just six with under four minutes remaining in the game. However, UNC’s (10-5, 5-3 ACC) interior offense was too much to handle, and the Pack fell apart in the end.
“Well I thought our guys fought hard,” said head coach Kevin Keatts. “When you look at it, I thought we played a really good, hard, inspiring game...the difference in the game was probably the last three of four minutes of the first half kind of got away from us a little bit.”
For the entirety of the game, NC State looked completely helpless with its interior defense, an area that it excelled in during the first clash between the two teams. Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe ate the Pack up. Bacot and Sharpe finished the game with a combined 33 points, with the Tar Heels finishing with 48 points in the paint, many of which came early.
“You look at the two guys who I thought really hurt us were Armando Bacot...and Day’Ron Sharpe,” Keatts said. “They came in, they obviously worked the past few days on pounding the ball inside… Give Bacot and give Day’Ron Sharpe a lot of credit; they were very effective around the basket.”
Despite an overall horrid defensive showing, multiple Pack players showed out on the offensive end and showed enough heart to keep the Pack around long enough. Five players finished the game in double digits.
Redshirt senior guard Devon Daniels led all scorers with 21 points on 56.3% shooting from the floor and stuffed the box with five rebounds, two steals, two assists and a block. Daniels was the lead initiator for the Pack throughout the game and looked really impressive throughout, draining numerous tough shots. Daniels scored 21 in both games against UNC this season.
“I don’t really try to correlate the games, they're brand new games,” Daniels said on scoring 21 points in both matchups. “Today, the ball was moving well in the first half. We were getting the ball up and down in transition, moving the ball side to side, and that opens up the lanes. We were getting easy shots; then in the second half, they started to switch and that opened some stuff up...I just read the game.”
Senior guard Braxton Beverly had his best game of the season today, scoring 12 points on 50% shooting and adding four assists and a career high in steals with five. In the game, Beverly hit his 200th career 3-pointer.
2⃣0⃣0⃣ career three's. pic.twitter.com/70xRse08ou— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) January 23, 2021
“I’ve been feeling better, I’ve been getting healthier,” Beverly said. “The last week and a half off has been time for me to heal and get some rehab and get as healthy as I can. I felt much better.”
Redshirt sophomore center Manny Bates had a strong game despite being a game-time decision, finishing the game with 10 points, six rebounds and a very impressive line of seven blocks. Many of Bates’ blocks were spectacular to watch, including one that forced Bates out of the paint to block UNC guard Caleb Love, and his outing gave the only glimpse of Wolfpack paint defense all game.
“I think more so our rhythm and timing and just guys being on the floor playing together,” Keatts said of the impact of a 10-day break. “Not only were we on a pause...but we had been without Manny Bates, and honestly, I played him a lot more minutes than I ever expected. Yesterday was his first time having contact since he swung his ankle at the end of the Miami game.”
Redshirt senior forward D.J. Funderburk had a rough first half, only going up for one field-goal attempt in the first half, which contributed to a 10-point deficit at the break. Funderburk picked it up in the second half, finishing with 14 points and four rebounds, but it was too late.
“I didn’t think he played well at all in the second half,” Keatts said. “I was pissed off a little bit at the stat sheet that I got in the first half because I just didn't think he affected the game. He got into foul trouble, he played 9:30 in the first and didn’t affect the game and we talked to him, I got his teammates to talk to him, and I thought he came out and responded.”
UNC-Chapel Hill has been hot recently, and a lot of that success has been due in part to improved play of its lead guards. Love scored 15 points and added five assists, which contributed to the eruptions of Bacot and Sharpe. Youngster guards Anthony Harris and Kerwin Walton also played very well for the Tar Heels, scoring a combined 18 points, with Walton adding four assists of his own.
Carolina’s 56.8 percent shooting from the floor was a season-best for a half (.548 in 2nd half vs. WFU)— UNCMBBStats (@UNCMBBStats) January 23, 2021
Daniels began the game on a tear, looking excellent as the lead ball-handler and scoring seemingly endless difficult field-goal attempts. However, it’s hard to run an interior half-court offense through a guard for an extended period of time when that guard is facing multiple talented big bodies.
That showed after a while, and the Pack tried to play too much iso ball with middling success. For the Wolfpack to have more success, it must draw up more plays to run in game time. NC State only had nine assisted buckets in the game, a mark that was doubled by UNC.
Freshman guard Shakeel Moore, who scorched the Tar Heels in their first matchup for 17 points on 11 shot attempts, curiously had just one shot attempt in the first half in four minutes. Moore did not play again in the contest.
“He hadn’t practiced well,” Keatts said of Moore. “I’m one of those guys that rewards guys that practice well. He’s going to be fine; he’s a freshman.”
While NC State is seemingly finally healthy, the Pack has a strenuous schedule on the horizon, with games against Virginia, Duke and two against Syracuse in the next six-game stretch.
“I thought our guys were playing well,” Keatts said. “Whenever we get back in practice, it’ll be the first time in 15 to 16 days that we’ve practiced and had the entire team in there. We gotta go in there and get ready for our next game. Everybody’s gotta get on the same page; everybody’s got to continue to work. We’ve gotta get back in shape and figure everything out.”
Next up, the Wolfpack will have a chance to get back on track when it returns to PNC Arena to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27.