One thing you’ll never be able to say about a Kevin Keatts NC State team is that it didn’t fight—NC State fought hard all the way to the end, but ultimately, Creighton was just better. Not a lot better, but better enough.
Terquavion Smith scored 32 points in his final game in a Wolfpack uniform, and he was 11-22 inside the arc, but the Pack just did not get enough offense elsewhere to bring this game home. Jarkel Joiner was 5-18 from the field, and DJ Burns was rendered a non-factor. All due credit to Creighton for that.
I don’t have a problem with that shot distribution—if State’s going to go out, then it should do so with its best players accounting for the bulk of the shots. It just didn’t work out. If Jarkel plays better, who knows; if Jack Clark or DJ find a way to contribute as secondary options, who knows. It wasn’t meant to be.
The difference, in the end, was effectiveness inside the arc. Both teams struggled to make jumpers, but Creighton shot 23-35 on twos, while State was 21-51. Ryan Kalkbrenner showed just exactly how good he can be.
But State was close to getting this one done anyway—came out on fire to start the second half and built a seven-point lead that felt at least briefly like an assertion of control. Creighton’s got more scoring depth, though, and it showed the rest of the way as it rallied back and put State on its heels down the stretch. This was a one-possession game late, but Creighton had the advantage of applying the game pressure for most of this one, and it made the plays in those last few minutes to secure victory.
Tough, but so it goes. Disappointing, but you can’t fault the effort, or short Creighton’s work, either. I guess that helps a little bit. NC State didn’t lose out of any weirdness or shenanigans; it just wasn’t good enough. That’s basketball for you.
Still a huge bummer. I’m gonna miss this team.