I should know better, no doubt about that, but right as NC State was going up double figures in the first half, I let myself think maybe this might be an easy one. No such luck there, as Notre Dame turned right around and erased that lead with a run of its own.
It was a battle from that point on, with Notre Dame out-shooting State and taking a three-point lead into halftime. It was a near best-case half for the Irish, who hadn’t been shooting the ball exceptionally well in league play. They did for quite a bit of this one.
Fortunately the Wolfpack found more answers in the second half, and Terquavion Smith finally made a three-pointer. But while the Pack led for the majority of the second half, it never could figure out how to get rid of Notre Dame completely.
This game was very much up for grabs after the Irish pulled within one with five minutes left, but thankfully Casey Morsell knocked down a three on State’s next possession. Another critical exchange came with a minute left, when DJ Burns made a shot to put State up five, and then Marcus Hammond missed two free throws at the other end. That was the final break NC State needed to get the win.
Jarkel Joiner, who finished the night with 28 points, made all six of his free throw attempts in the last minute to help close it out. State shot 23-27 at the free throw line, which was critical, and also turned the ball over a grand total of two times all night.
I figured we were in for a good showing in that respect, what with State being elite at taking care of the ball and Notre Dame being among the nation’s worst at forcing turnovers, but this was something else entirely. The Irish turned the ball over 15 times, and that huge margin in State’s favor was kind of important. Once again, NC State found a way to win despite being badly out-shot. Bullet dodged!