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NC State fends off Hofstra and advances in NIT with 84-78 win

Markell Johnson wouldn’t let the Pack falter tonight.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia vs North Carolina State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

NC State erased a three-point halftime deficit and got 20 second-half points from Markell Johnson on the way to an 84-78 win over Hofstra Tuesday night. The Pride hung in there despite trailing most of the second half, and if not for Markell, maybe they would have pulled this one out in the end.

But Markell had all the answers in crunch time. A tough layup by Johnson gave State an 80-76 lead with 1:07 remaining, and after a Hofstra bucket, Johnson came back down the floor and converted an acrobatic and-one play to push the margin to 83-78 with 19 seconds to go. That was the dagger play the Wolfpack needed to push this contest into the win column.

Markell battled foul trouble for most of the night, which limited him to 26 minutes, but when he was on the floor, it was clear there was nobody on the Hofstra side capable of checking him. That opened things up for the entire offense.

CJ Bryce was also tremendous tonight, finishing with 18 points and 11 boards. It wasn’t a great shooting performance that made the difference, it was his rebounding—specifically, his eight offensive boards. I had to double check that to make sure it was accurate. Hofstra had nine offensive boards as a team.

Johnson and Bryce were the biggest keys offensively, though Torin Dorn had a solid night working the mid-range of the Pride zone, which was generous to put it mildly. There was a lot of open space in the middle almost all of the time. It wasn’t hard to see why Hofstra’s defense didn’t rate too well this season.

The Pride couldn’t get enough stops in the second half, and while Justin Wright-Foreman had his moments on the way to 29 points, he wasn’t exceptional enough to make the difference. We’ll take it.

NC State is on to the NIT round of 16 and will host the winner of the Harvard-Georgetown game.