Tue, 13 Apr 2021

Streaking NC State faces slumping Pitt

Field Level Media
28 Feb 2021, 09:19 GMT+10

North Carolina State hopes to continue an upward trend when it plays at home for the first time in more than two weeks.

Sunday's opponent at Raleigh, N.C., will be Pittsburgh, which is seeking any sort of good news after a pair of roster defections during the past week.

The Wolfpack (11-9, 7-8ACC) are gunning for their first four-game winning streak since February 2018. The most impressive of the recent victories came with knocking off No. 15 Virginia 68-61 on Wednesday night.

"I'm happy for these guys because we're getting success the right way," Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said.

NC State's winning streak began with a 74-73 victory on Feb. 17 at Pittsburgh.

"The biggest thing for us is that we got a complete buy-in from everyone," Keatts said. "Everybody is truly happy for one another, and we're building a great team. That doesn't happen when you got so many young guys, and our guys are buying in."

Pittsburgh (9-9, 5-8) has lost four games in a row. The Panthers haven't played since Feb. 20.

They've also lost players. Xavier Johnson and Au'Diese Toney announced this week they're transferring out of the program. Toney, at 14.4 points per game, ranks 13th in the ACC in scoring, and Johnson (14.2 ppg.) is 16th in the league.

Johnson and Toney are out of the mix for the Panthers immediately, leaving Pitt short-handed as it tries to break out of funk that includes seven losses in the last eight games.

"When things like this happen, nothing surprises me," Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said, pointing out that the decisions were deemed in the best interests of the players and the program. "... This year has been such a tough year for everyone."

Still, the Panthers have ACC scoring leader Justin Champagnie (18.8 ppg.)

"My job is to do the best I can for our players, for our program," Capel said. "... I feel very confident in the guys that we have in our program."

During the Woflpack's winning streak, it hasn't trailed by more than three points at any time.

NC State shot a combined 51 percent from the field in those games. In eight games since an injury to team scoring leader Devon Daniels, forwards Manny Bates, D.J. Funderburk and Jericole Hellems have combined to sink 53.4 percent of their shots.

"In order for us to be a really good basketball team, we don't have to have that one guy on every night that could score 30 points," Keatts said.

Freshman Cam Hayes has posted double-figure scoring totals in each of NC State's last three games.

"He's getting confidence in every game," Keatts said. "It's hard in this league to basically give the keys to the car to a freshman, but he's earned it. He's stepping up, and he's playing big for us."

NC State has won the past 11 meetings in the series with Pittsburgh. None of the last six matchups have been decided by more than six points.

--Field Level Media

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