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It could be said that N.C. State has rebounded from its home loss to North Carolina on Feb. 10.
The Wolfpack did some actual rebounding on the court Sunday and it helped it push its winning streak to four games with a 92-72 whipping of Florida State in PNC Arena. The Seminoles came into Raleigh ranked No. 25 in the nation and sporting the type of size that would seem likely to bother N.C. State, especially given its woes of late inside the lane. The Seminoles had their moments but the Pack took it to them in route to a big 20-point win.
N.C. State enjoyed a four-rebound advantage on the boards, with the difference coming in offensive rebounds. It was a compelling contrast from its last outing, when the Pack was outmuscled on the boards by Boston College. Remarkably, the Eagles bested the Pack 20-4 on the offensive boards despite falling in Raleigh by 16 points on Feb. 20.
“We did a great job of controlling penetration,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said after Sunday’s win. “After giving up 20 offensive rebounds to Boston College I wasn’t happy and I thought our guys bounced back, and we outrebounded those guys by four, held them to only eight offensive rebounds and we had 12 ourselves.
“What a good game. I thought our guys played a really good game start to finish. We did a tremendous job, especially in the first half defensively. I thought we improved on our half-court defense. When you look at it, I thought our guys were in gaps.”
Keatts is putting his stamp on the N.C. State basketball program and his players — those he inherited along with the ones he helped bring in — are buying in to his philosophy.
The first-year head coach, who came to Raleigh prior to the current campaign after guiding UNC-Wilmington for three seasons, has clearl prioritized 3-point shooting, both on the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
Although it appeared early in the season that N.C. State was better suited to work from the inside-out offensively, Keatts never wavered in his conviction that the Pack was taking good shots.
Conversely, the Wolfpack is steadfast in its defensive approach of not pulling off the player spotting up at the 3-point line, even at the risk of yielding a basket to penetration or all pick-and-rolls. The led to State not allowing a trey Sunday, as Florida State missed all 15 of its attempts from long range.
“If you look at our stats (opponents have made 32.1 percent of 3-point shots), we’ve been a pretty good 3-point field-goal percentage defensive team the whole year,” Keatts said. “We did a great job at challenging shots. I think the only clean look they got was when Omer (Yurtseven) fouled them in the corner. We couldn’t stop them from taking 3s, but certainly we wanted to make them take some challenging shots.”
ON A ROLL
The Wolfpack has won four straight ACC games for the first time since the 2005-06 season. N.C. State shot exactly 50 percent from the floor against the Seminoles, marking the fifth straight contest the Pack has made at least half of its field-goal attempts. That has not happened in program history since the 1985-86 campaign, which is also the last time State reached the Elite Eight.
More importantly for N.C. State, this season’s team now has 20 wins and has clinched a winning record in ACC regular-season play (10-6) with two contests remaining.
Things are coming together for the Wolfpack and it is happening at the right time. It has created a good vibe that is not exclusive to win-starved fans. N.C. State’s players are also enjoying the new ambience in Raleigh.
“Guys were excited that we’re able to put together a season like this and this game together like this,” N.C. State junior wing Torin Dorn Jr. said. “We prepare extremely hard, so it’s always fun to execute a game plan and win a game.
“We’re just sharing the ball, getting to our spots. Everybody’s shooting the shots they’re good at. Our guys are just clicking right now and it’s great to click at this time of the year.”