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NC State fends off a tough Pittsburgh team, 65-62

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 06 NC State at Boston College Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Winning a game doesn’t need to be this difficult, but then, that’s the difference between a decent team and a good one. NC State nearly messed around enough to lose to Pittsburgh, but this was a game that came down to free throws late, and there State had the advantage.

It didn’t have to get that far, knowing what we did about Pitt’s preferences—namely that the Panthers wanted to attack the offensive glass, and that they’d probably make an extra emphasis there after losing a couple starters to transfer.

Pitt grabbed almost 46% of its missed shots, though, and that was the sole reason why the Panthers remained in the game and put themselves in a position to steal it late. They shot the ball poorly, which was an expected result of their attrition—this was a poor-shooting team to begin with. They kept the door pried open with rebounds.

NC State’s interior defense, generally, was fine, limiting Pitt to 36% shooting on twos. That initial part was never the problem, and ultimately it was decisive, because the Panthers were frequently left scrambling.

State didn’t shoot the ball well, either, from anywhere on the floor, but State was better inside the arc (45%) and shot 24-34 at the free throw line, besting Pitt’s 19-30 effort. In the end it was a contest of free throw shots, which no one wants.

Jericole Hellems led all Wolfpack scorers with 15 points, including a couple free throws to put the game on ice in the last 10 seconds. Braxton Beverly, 8-9 at the stripe, scored 14; DJ Funderburk had 13 and Manny Bates had 10.

Nothing about this one was a model of efficiency, but this was a tight game in the late stages in a game where NC State’s freshman contingent was totally absent, and it won anyway. It’s a scramble a lot of games for this group, and the defensive rebounding was a frustrating struggle, but the Wolfpack found a way anyhow.