Kevin Keatts brought his up-tempo style with him to North Carolina State after a very successful stint at UNC Wilmington which included two trips to the NCAA Tournament in three years and a 72-28 record. The Wolfpack would look for another big-scoring night as they continue a busy pre-ACC schedule with their fourth game in seven days when Presbyterian visits Thursday in the campus portion of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the mid-1990s, the NC State administration decided to replace Mark Gottfried with Keatts. With point guard Dennis Smith Jr. gone to the NBA, shooter Maverick Rowan transferred out and big man Abdul-Malik Abu out with a sprained knee, Keatts had a pretty big rebuilding project on his hands. And even though VMI, Charleston Southern and Bryant aren’t exactly considered tough competition, the Wolfpack have scored 91.7 points per game in posting three easy victories. “I kind of like it. It’s weird. I walked in the other day, and I was like, ‘Man, I was just here yesterday.’” Keats told reporters about the schedule. “I think this playing every other day will help us in the future in some type of tournament down the road because we’ll be battle-tested.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT PRESBYTERIAN (1-1): The Blue Hose were 5-25 last season, but first-year coach Dustin Kerns celebrated his first victory on Saturday with a 107-87 win over Division III foe Johnson University (Tenn.). Senior Reggie Dillard scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Davon Bell added 22 points while 6-9 junior Francois Lewis, a transfer from the College of Central Florida, set career highs with 19 points and nine rebounds. In the season opener last Friday at Tennessee, the Blue Hose committed 13 first-half turnovers and trailed by 32 at the half before settling for an 88-53 defeat despite 20 points from Bell.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (3-0): In the Wolfpack’s latest victory, 95-72 against Bryant on Tuesday, junior Torin Dorn matched a career high with 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting, senior Lennard Freeman set a personal best with 20 points and sophomore Markell Johnson added 10 points and a career-high 11 assists for his first career double-double. The 6-5 Dorn, the only returning player to average more than 21 minutes last season, leads the team in scoring (18.7 points) and offensive rebounds (10). Allerik Freeman, a 6-3 grad transfer from Baylor, is averaging 16.7 points and Lennard Freeman is chipping in 14 points per game while Johnson has 29 assists and is contributing 12 points per contest.
1. The NCAA announced that Wolfpack 6-0 freshman G Braxton Beverly would be eligible for the Bryant game after resolving an eligibility issue. Beverly, who averaged 23 points at Hargrave Military Academy last year and led the team to a 90-3 record his two seasons, scored just two points in 16 minutes in his debut.
2. Malik-Abu, who averaged 11.8 points and seven rebounds last season and was hoping for a breakout season under Keats and his up-tempo style, is making progress but won’t be rushed back from his knee problem.
3. Long-range shooting could be an issue for the Wolfpack, who are 18-of-59 beyond the arc through the first three games.
PREDICTION: North Carolina State 108, Presbyterian 70