N.C. State upsets No. 2 Arizona
North Carolina State took the time to celebrate in the locker room after it upset No. 2 Arizona 90-84 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas, on Thursday.
“This is a program win,” said Kevin Keatts, who is in his first year with the Wolfpack.
“When you take over a program and you’re five games into the season and you can get a win like that, we’re going to celebrate every win we get. Obviously we will calm down and get ready for our next opponent.”
Senior Allerik Freeman scored 24 points and freshman Braxton Beverly added 20 to help North Carolina State get the win. It is the biggest upset of the first month of the college basketball season and the first time the Wolfpack has defeated a top-5 team since defeating second-ranked Duke on Jan. 11, 2015.
North Carolina State (5-0) went on a 15-3 run in the final minutes of the game to secure the win. It held its biggest lead of the game at 87-77 with 1:48 left.
“When you think about Arizona basketball under Sean Miller, you think (about) being gritty and team defense,” said Wildcats associate head coach Lorenzo Romar on the postgame radio show. “We didn’t show that tonight. When we managed to come back and take the lead it was because we were getting stops ... If we don’t defend better than that, there’s going to be problems.”
Arizona (3-1) made it 88-82 on Allonzo Trier’s two free throws with 15.1 seconds left, but that is as close as it could get.
“What I learned tonight is that we didn’t panic,” Keatts said. “Even when they took the lead I thought we stayed the course and finished the game ...
“We’ve done a great job of getting in great shape. We have a long ways to go but I thought we finished the game because of our conditioning.”
Freeman went 7 for 18 from the floor and 10 of 12 from the free throw line.
“Al was tremendous. He did a great job being a leader and he played as though he was a fifth-year guy,” Keatts said. “He scored and got in the paint and made some plays.”
A big difference was the bench. North Carolina State had 39 bench points to Arizona’s six.
Trier, the leading scorer in the country after three games at 30 points per game, finished with 27 points. Teammate Deandre Ayton had 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Arizona inched back throughout the second half, taking the lead at 73-71 with just under six minutes left, but Freeman hit two free throws to tie it. Keanu Pinder gave the Wildcats the lead again at 75-73 with a dunk, but Beverly hit a 3-pointer to allow the Wolfpack to retake the lead 78-75.
Romar said the comeback came because “we were playing with energy and were in the right spots (on defense). Coach Miller is an unbelievable coach and an unbelievable defensive coach — one of the best defensive coaches in the country. We drill it and drill it. It just didn’t happen for us.”
Arizona had the lead for just 21 seconds in the first half, and it came on Trier’s first basket to make it 39-37 with 57 seconds left in the half. But until then, Arizona and Trier struggled to keep pace with the Wolfpack.
North Carolina State jumped out to a 15-6 lead, helped by four Wildcats turnovers. Arizona was able to close the gap behind Ayton’s play near the basket and from distance. Ayton hit a 3-pointer with 7:25 left to cut the Wolfpack lead to 25-22. But N.C. State kept the advantage, getting it to 35-28 with 3:06 left in the half.
Behind senior Dusan Ristic’s four points and guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s 3-pointer, Arizona went on a 7-0 run to tie it at 35 with 1:38 left. The teams exchanged baskets, including Trier’s first to eventually tie it at the half at 40.
NOTES: Arizona coach Sean Miller and assistant coach Mark Phelps were assistants at North Carolina State in the mid-1990s under Herb Sendek ... F Deandre Ayton was the first Arizona freshman to have three straight double-doubles, and he added his fourth straight on Wednesday. ... Arizona fell to 25-13 in games played outside the continental USA. ... N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said before the matchup he thought Arizona was the No. 1 team in the country. ... G Torin Dorn, the Wolfpack’s leading scorer entering the game, finished with nine points. ... N.C. State G Braxton Beverly became eligible last week after the NCAA initially said he had to sit out a year after transferring from Ohio State. This was his third game with the Wolfpack.