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NC State Pushes Past Pitt, 79-76

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On a day in which the Pittsburgh Panthers (12-12, 2-9) tried to get another notch in the win column, they couldn’t get out of their own way early in the game. Despite an early 6-5 lead, Pitt turned the ball over on their next three possessions which allowed the North Carolina State Wolfpack (17-7, 5-6) to go on a 5-0 run. NC State looked to get some separation early until guard Jared Wilson-Frame drilled a step back three-pointer. Forward Terrell Brown followed that up by connecting on his second three-pointer of the season to tied the game at 14 all going into the under-12 media timeout.

The Wolfpack hit the offensive glass, looking for second-chance opportunities. The Panthers looked to guard Xavier Johnson, and he delivered with his signature attack mentality. A pretty behind-the-back-wrap-around layup ignited the crowd and gave Pitt a 23-19 lead at the 8:15 mark.

Both teams traded blows for the remainder of the half, neither team was able to take more than a two possession lead: The Panthers were up by as many as 4, while NC State never led by more than 6. The Wolfpack went into the half leading 41-38.

NC State wasn’t satisfied with their one possession lead as they connected on their first three attempts in the second half, an 8-2 run and a 49-40 advantage. Head coach Jeff Capel took a quick timeout, but it only helped for a very short stint. The Wolfpack continued their onslaught from beyond the arc. By the under-16 media timeout, NC State had converted four, three-pointers, and had a 57-45 lead.

It would be the upperclassmen for Pitt that would settle the team and right the ship. Guards Sidy N’Dir and Wilson-Frame that would help ignite a 16-2 run that gave the Panthers a brief 61-59 lead. In what became a half of runs, the Wolfpack answered with a 11-5 run of their own, powered by three makes from beyond the arc.

A layup by Wilson-Frame tied the game with 3:53 remaining, but a three-pointer by Markell Johnson put NC State back up 3 and ended up being the little bit of breathing room his team needed to pull out a 79-76 victory. On another loss in a close game late, head coach Jeff Capel said, “We have a very, very, very small margin of error.”

Johnson led the way with a team-high 17 points, while all five starters reached double-figures. Wilson-Frame finished with 16 points on a very efficient 6-7 from the field, including 4-5 from long distance.

The Wolfpack were led by the game-high 20 points from guard C.J. Bryce. As a team, they shot 14-27 (51.9%) on three-pointers for the game.

On the hot outside shooting of NC State, N’Dir said after the game, “We lost number 10, Beverly, a lot in the zone, and we had to do a better job on that. They knocked down tough shots as well.”

Wilson-Frame added, “We have to rebound better too.”

Capel on the Wolfpack’s three-point shooting: “We played the percentages on a couple of them and they stepped up and they made some.”

Pitt will look to rebound on Tuesday on the road against the Boston College Eagles (11-11, 2-8). Kevin Keatts, head coach of the Wolfpack, does believe the Panthers are trending in the right direction: “Look, their record doesn’t indicate how good they are. They play hard. They remind me of my team year one.”

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