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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "At Least I Made It Through This Game"

February 10, 2024

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media following the Wolfpack's 83-79 road loss to Wake Forest Saturday evening.

NOTE: Click on the video in the player above to watch Keatts’ press conference.

Opening Statement

It was a good game. At least I made it through this game. What a hard-fought game it was. To me, it was an ACC Tournament elimination game. I thought both teams played extremely hard. I loved the way D.J. [Horne] played; I thought he was really aggressive. Every time that we needed a basket to enter a run, I thought he was the guy that stepped up and made some big shots for us. We did some really good things. I thought Mo [Diarra] was tremendous as far as rebounding the basketball. The game went back and forth. I talked to those guys in locker room about four minutes to go. We lost a guy on the back door cut. I thought, defensively, we had a couple breakdowns. We did a really good job of running them off the three-point line, but you're almost going to pick your poison because I think those guys did a good job of paint touches and getting into the interior of our defense. Obviously, the last couple games in this building, they made 18 threes and 12 threes. One of the things we wanted to do was superbly guard the three-point line and take them away. We'll move along. We'll work. It's a great opportunity for us. We've got plenty more opportunities in front of us, and the weird thing is it's very similar to last year when we beat Wake two times. When we did, it knocked us out of Quad I. It's weird how the math may work. It's crazy, but because they won, they were [ranked] 32, 33 [in the NET], and maybe they'll go to 30. Maybe we'll get a Quad I from beating them at home. It's a weird deal to say that — I don't want to lose any game because of that — but I know a lot of this stuff is focused around quads and everything else. I thought my guys played extremely hard, man. I'm proud of those guys. Do we need to clean up some things? Absolutely, but I thought Wake made one or two more plays that we didn't and, obviously, took care of homecourt advantage. It’s a good split, and maybe we'll get a Wake Forest and NC State Round 3 in the ACC tournament.

On Diarra’s performance...

We've been playing these small lineups, but I was prepared to play bigger. Andrew Carr has been playing so well. He started at our game when he played really good basketball, and I knew we could better match up with him. [Diarra is] starting to play right. He's our best rebounder when he plays a lot of minutes and we don't get out-rebounded. He changed the dynamics of our team a little bit.

On which tournament he means when he refers to the feeling of this game...

No, I think it's more ACC. It was a good fought battle. This is the second game that we had, and both of them obviously came down to the end. Credit to both teams: both teams took care of their home-court advantage. We would love to walk out of here with the sweep, but I think Wake made a couple plays at the end and that we didn't. I thought Carr's basket at the end was a really good basket. He did a good job. We worked all week about taking away his left shoulder, and we let him get to his left shoulder for a hook. Early in the game, I thought Ernest Ross did a good job of taking that away and he missed that same shot.

On Wake giving it to Hunter Sallis on its final possession...

We didn't know. Obviously, Carr could have had it, and Sallis could have had it, but we didn't know. We just want to be prepared, and I thought we kind of got disconnected from him a little bit. He threw the ball, and by the time Mo got there to him, he made a great jump shot in the paint.

On if he expected the Demon Deacons to foul...

It's tough, and I complained the entire time because Wake had played the entire half with four fouls, and they gave their fifth. It's hard to be able to score the basketball with the fouls to give. We gave the ball to D.J. Burns when I think it was 79-79. They did a good job. I didn't think he particularly had it like that. What we wanted to do is kind of get Mo and Horne basically, the two guys who I thought played the best game, into some type of ball screen but, obviously, they stayed with him. They could be aggressive because of the fact that they had fouls to give if they needed to, and they made him take a tough shot.

On expecting Wake to double-team Burns, given the results of the Notre Dame game...

If you think about the game at Notre Dame, we went to him the time before, and he scored, and then he scored again. I wanted to go to the hot hand. The hot hand was 31 points similar to where we say, "Hey, is Wake going to go to Hunter Sallis?" I wanted to go to the hot hand. He made every big basket that we took, and I knew we would live with it. I knew it was going to be tough to get any shot off. Anytime we get into a score range, they were going to foul. They did a good job of trying to be aggressive on Michael [O'Connell], his fifth foul at that point, going for the steal.

If he worries about running out of time to pad his NCAA Tournament resume...

No, I don't. We have seven games left. I think we still have Quad I opportunities. Honestly, I think Wake's playing well, and they deserve to be an NCAA team. We beat them once, and it's a one-possession game at the end. If you look at the numbers and you look at our numbers, maybe they don't say that. I will remind you: a few years back, we were 32 in the NET, and we didn't go, and some teams that were in the 70's went.  I still think we have a lot of opportunity. I hate getting up here talking about numbers. I know everything is about numbers, but I hate talking about numbers. At the end of the day, if you're watching the game on TV and you're saying, “Look at those two teams,” you can't tell me that it's not two teams that you could see playing in March.

On Horne’s performance...

He's playing well in this four-game stretch that he's had. It's been really, really good. He's starting to become a guy who we can rely on. He's playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he's playing really aggressive basketball. At times. he saved us because there were times when they made plays, and he just rolls up and makes a couple plays himself. We ran a couple plays for him to get shots in the corner, and I thought he did a good job.

On the seven-day break between games...

If you won the game, you want to play, but we got some things that we can work on now. We're going to take a day or two off, and then we’ve got some things that we can work on getting better. Really, what it is for us, I think a couple breakdowns defensively late in the game kind of cost us what we got. We gave up a three, then we gave up the backdoor cut, and we fell asleep on a couple of things. Each of our games you look at, other than Virginia at home where we won by a pretty good margin and Syracuse on the road, every game that we played has become a possession game. We’ve got to limit those mistakes. I thought our guys did a great job officially executing, but I thought we lost them a couple times with the backdoors.

If he expected a possession game against Wake Forest...

I thought it was going to be a great game. I knew coming in it was a great game. It was a war at our place, and I knew, when the two teams got in each other's face early, it was going to be a fight again. That's what it was. It came down to the end. As I said, we give those guys credit. They made one more play than we did, and they ended up winning the game.

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