Beverly Davidson

Braxton Beverly drives towards the basket during NC State's opening NIT game against Davidson on March 18, 2021 in UNT Coliseum in Denton, Texas. NC State won 75-61.

Starting its postseason run, the NC State men’s basketball team defeated the Davidson Wildcats 75-61 in its first postseason matchup in Denton, Texas on Thursday, March 18. 

“I’m proud of these guys, they’ve done everything we asked the last couple of days,” said head coach Kevin Keatts. “If you could have been in our practice, you would have never known what tournament we are playing in. They’ve been excited, and I’m happy we are that way.”

After missing a bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack accepted a bid to the National Invitation Tournament in Texas to continue its postseason play and look for more success after a tough 21-point loss to Syracuse.

“It was a bad taste,” said redshirt senior forward D.J. Funderburk. “But we just wanted to prove to ourselves more so than anyone else that we could get back to that level of play and that level of playstyle and we showed that tonight.”

The Wolfpack came out hot with an immediate dunk from junior forward Jericole Hellems right off the tipoff. Within the beginning minutes of the game, NC State was able to build on its early heat with a pair of 3s from Funderburk and Hellems. Once the Pack got going, it never stopped and led the Wildcats through the final buzzer.

After Davidson was able to come back to within eight points to end the first half, the Wildcats came out to start the second with two baskets, bringing the game within four. In response, NC State came back to drill its shot attempts, with the help of a three-point play from Funderburk and a pair of 3s from freshman guard Cam Hayes and Hellems.

From there on, the Wolfpack continued to build its lead back up and obtain a 21-point lead over Davidson, carrying the double-digit win to the end.

Tonight, it was the veterans of the Pack that led the squad through its first round win of the NIT, with Funderburk, Hellems and redshirt sophomore forward Manny Bates all hitting double digits in tonight’s postseason game.

“For the seniors, it's our last couple games,” Funderburk said. “We wanted to stay together as long as possible, and if there was an option to keep playing together, we would definitely take that.”

Leading the team overall with 21 points and seven rebounds, Funderburk went 8 for 10 for the night from the floor along with a 3-point shot at the start of the game. When Davidson pushed to come within single digits of the Pack, Funderburk came in clutch for the Pack with a jumper followed by an and-one layup to push NC State ahead by 11 with those five crucial points needed to get the team back in the groove.

“It felt good seeing them go in,” Funderburk said. “It just gave me a little bit more confidence to keep going out there and scoring the ball.”

Also helping lead the Pack along was Bates with 14 points and eight rebounds. Bates went 7 for 7 in field-goal attempts tonight, contributing to NC State’s large win over Davidson. While Davidson was able to drill three field goals in a row, Bates came in to have an answer for each of them.

“Personally, I wanted to send our seniors off on a better note,” Bates said. “Not everyone has this opportunity, and I feel like we need to take it.”

Joining the leading scorers list is Hellems with 13 points and four rebounds. Along with the other veterans of this team, Hellem’s contribution helped push the team to its victory, giving the Pack the initial spark of the game with a dunk in the first two seconds. Hellems went on to go 5 for 10 from the field and nailed two 3s throughout the game.

After a blowout from Syracuse, this win was the postseason victory NC State needed. 

“With most programs going home, we are still playing,” Keatts said. “The extra practices that we get, the extra opportunities that I get to teach these guys. It’s always a teaching moment. It's refreshing to see guys playing good basketball in March.”

NC State will continue its postseason tournament play in the NIT in the second round next Thursday, March 25. The Wolfpack will prepare to play the winner of Colorado State and Buffalo.