Keatts, N.C. State still trying to raise the bar

North Carolina NC State Basketball-3

North Carolina State's Torin Dorn and North Carolina's Cameron Johnson reach for possession of the ball during the first half UNC's 96-89 victory on Saturday.


Sports Writer

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon, right after dropping a tight contest to North Carolina, didn’t seem panicked in their postgame answers. Nor confused, angry or overly frustrated.

The responses from both players and coach Kevin Keatts existed in a black-and-white world.

“It was just us. We’ve got to pay better attention to scouting reports,” guard Torin Dorn said.

Echoed Braxton Beverly: “We didn’t get enough stops, especially in that fourth quarter. We just beat ourselves.”

In discussing his talk with his players after the game, Keatts said he tried to convey a sentiment that has been objectively untrue over the last two seasons: that this iteration of N.C. State (16-9, 6-6 ACC) is a good team. The tone of his team immediately after reflected as much.

Starting with an early upset of then-No. 2 Arizona, then after wins over Duke, North Carolina and Clemson, Keatts has revisited this topic with his team at several intervals this year. Saturday wasn’t any different.

“Our expectations coming into the season from everybody outside of our program was pretty much low,” Keatts said, referring to an ACC coaches’ poll before the season that projected N.C. State to finish No. 12 of 15 in the conference.

“We’re in uncharted waters with what you compare to the last couple of years.”

The Tar Heels shot a scintillating 78.1 percent from the floor in the second half on Saturday, an attack led in large part by Luke Maye’s career day.

He finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds, but the Wolfpack never allowed the game to get out of hand, drawing within two points with about ninety seconds left.

The play that ended up being the dagger was a 3-point shot by Kenny Williams on the next possession, which stretched the lead to five.

In Chapel Hill a few weeks earlier, the Wolfpack had the answers in an overtime victory against the Tar Heels. It was UNC on Saturday which made the plays.

For N.C. State, which dropped its second conference game in a row with the loss and now sits at eighth in the ACC, it’s about expecting to win the types of big games they played on Saturday. That has been, and continues to be, the goal for Keatts in his first ACC go around.

“I have to get these guys to change their expectations,” he said. “I don’t want them to get to the point where they’re satisfied with how many wins we have right now.

“Now we have to reset ourselves and move forward. Obviously I’m very disappointed about our loss, but it doesn’t hurt us now. It’s what we do moving forward that’s important to me.”

Carolina blue, Wolfpack red

Keatts on Saturday stalked the sidelines in a seldom-seen but overtly stylish red blazer, which he did break out once before in a non-conference game earlier this season.

But with a lively home crowd and a visiting coach on the other sideline known for stylish jackets in his own right, the situation called for it.

“The red blazer is great,” Keatts said in his postgame conference.. “I knew Roy was going to try and come in here with his Carolina blue blazer on, so I’m not going to let him show me up. I’m a way better dresser than him.”