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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "This Team Has a Lot of Fight"

January 24, 2024

NC State's Kevin Keatts, Casey Morsell, and Michael O'Connell met with the media following the Wolfpack's 59-53 overtime road loss to Virginia Wednesday evening.

NOTE: Click on the video in the player above to watch the Wolfpack’s press conference. Keatts’ comments are transcribed below.

Opening Statement 

Mixed emotion about the game because when you look at it, the things that I don't like is that I didn't think we brought enough toughness in the first half. The result of that is 54-32 in rebounding. I thought they really did beat us to 50-50 balls. What are the things I didn't think we did? Obviously, because we didn't score the ball and we gave up so many opportunities for those guys to get second chances, we didn't get our press involved. It's kind of hard to press when you're not going scoring. Two different halves: second half, we came out, and we had great energy. We were able to get the ball inside to D.J. [Burns] early. He made some shots. We got going. We were able to press and get involved in the game. What a hell of a game. If you didn't see the first half, you'd be like, “Man, that was a great game the entire time.” This team has a lot of fight. It's got a lot of grit. Give those guys credit: you don't accidentally win 21 games in a row here at home. Good atmosphere, very good basketball team. I thought we had our chances. Late in the game, I thought we did. I'm super proud of our guys and how hard we fought, but we can't dig yourself in such a big hole, especially in the rebounding margin. At one point, I think UVa had taken 10 to 12 more shots than us because of the offensive rebounding. You look at the end of the game: they only took two of them. We'll build on it. I love the fight of these guys. I thought that Casey responded well when we needed him to. Michael had a big tip-in to send it to overtime. It was a good ACC road fight, and we'll build from it.

On bouncing back with another road game next on schedule...

We've been pretty doggone good on the road this year. I think, in ACC play, we're 3-1 and that close to being 4-0 with the opportunity that we had tonight. We’ve just got to get back and focus. These are ACC games in January, tough venues to play. Give Virginia credit with the way they came out. Give our guys credit: our fight to get back into the game and put ourselves in a good situation. We'll get back, we'll shake it off, and we'll prepare for our next game.

On matching Morsell with Isaac McKneely defensively...

Going into the game, I thought Isaac is going to draw so much attention because of his ability to make threes. I think he's shooting a crazy amount, over 50 percent in league play, especially in the last few games, and so we wanted to make sure that we made everything tough for him. Now, he's a tough guard because he could back up and shoot it, so even when you think he's guarded, we had to lock in and do a good job, and I thought we did a good job tonight making sure that we did that part of it.

On facing the Cavaliers the second time around...

I think they understand who they are. When you add [Jordan] Minor to the bunch, he's a physical presence, and the right people are taking the right shots for Tony to be put in that situation. They're good. They're always going to be tough here at home. I think what changed for them is obviously going to Georgia Tech; getting their first road win obviously gives them confidence. They've done a good job this year. They've done a good job last year. Despite this particular Virginia team having struggled on the road, them winning on the road also helps them win at home again.

On scouting Taine Murray...

We had him on a scout because we saw him play a couple of games where I think he played a little against Georgia Tech. He played a little bit, but we knew he was on the scouting report. I didn't like the fact that he made all those free throws down the stretch though. He's another guard that they can add, and it's a good basketball team. It's a good team on their own floor. I think the longest winning streak in college basketball on their floor, and we had our chances, but it's going to be hard to win games if we don't rebound better, and, of course, you guys know we will be rebounding the next couple of days.

On the overtime offense struggling after playing catchup in the second half...

You're playing against a very good defensive team. We talked about winning the game because they are going to be low possessions even though we both had 60-some. You’ve got to be able to beat a Virginia team with a short clock. They're not going to take quick shots. They're not going to beat themselves. I think part of that was our comeback, but a lot of it is their defense. They're one of the better defensive team in the country, year in and year out.

On the foul differential...

I'm a coach. I want more fouls, and I'm sure Tony [Bennett] wants more fouls. If you are asking me if I thought the refereeing was bad, no, I didn't. I really didn't. I have to go back and look at it. You know I do. I will say this: I do think D.J. Burns has been refereed a little different than most bigs because of his physical ability. I don't think he gets the benefit of the doubt. I think guys get to do this, and guys get to do that on him, and a lot of times because he catches the ball off the block, you should play him like a perimeter guy. You shouldn't be able to do this off the block because of who he is. That's something that we have to continue to talk about, but I don't think they call one way or the other tonight.

On M.J. Rice...

No, I don't [have any comment]. I'm going to respect M.J., his family, and his privacy.

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