Holy smokes, you guys. Holy crap. NC State played a near-complete basketball game on Wednesday, and actually dictated terms for most of the night against the second-ranked team in the country. NC State’s effort against Arizona was rewarded with a 90-84 victory.
Al Freeman had a huge night with some assertive play at the offensive end and scored 24 points, 10 of which came from the free throw line. And, man, I think we can officially, really actually say hello to Braxton Beverly. That kid was absolutely money. He scored 20 points and hit a critical go-ahead three down the stretch that helped lead the team on a decisive late-game scoring run.
The crazy thing about this game is NC State actually dictated terms for almost the entire night—State not only started fast, it had answer after answer every time Arizona put a rally together. This was an impressive display of both confidence and mental toughness, because it was also far from a neutral atmosphere: most of the folks in the building were pulling for Arizona.
State did what it hasn’t of late to help pull this thing off. It made a high percentage of its free throw attempts, and it was effective from beyond the arc. Beverly set the tone there by going 3-5 from three, and amazingly enough, State ended up being the much better perimeter team tonight. Arizona was only 2-17 from three.
Abdul-Malik Abu returned and went for 8 and 8 in 18 minutes. Omer Yurtseven looked like a completely different player this time out, like he recognized and welcomed the challenge of playing against a pair of seven-footers. There’s a lot to digest from this performance, and it was a really nice collective effort. I haven’t even mentioned Markell Johnson, who did little scoring but finished with eight dimes.
This was some incredible team ball, and it was fun as hell to watch. We are on to the semifinals of this tournament. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody, and we’ll see you at 3 p.m. ET tomorrow afternoon. (On ESPN2.)