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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "It's a Good Time to Step Back"

February 12, 2024

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media for the ACC's weekly teleconference to discuss the Wolfpack's midweek break and upcoming road game versus Clemson.

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

On the team’s focal points for the bye week…

We’ve got to get a couple of guys playing better. When you look at the four-game stretch D.J. Horne has had, the guy’s playing really well. We’ve got to get a few of our guys playing better, making some shots. You get a chance to step back a little bit and work on some things defensively and offensively. It’s a weird week because you don’t want to overdo it, but you also want to stay sharp. One of the things we have to do is break the week up. We’re going to go today and tomorrow, probably take Wednesday off, and start preparing for Clemson on Thursday and Friday. The biggest thing is trying to work on ourselves. We had two really good games that we came up a little bit short, but we’ve got to get some guys making some shots. We’ve got to get a little bit better defensively as we were earlier in the year. For us, it was probably a good time to have a break. Obviously, you don’t like taking off because you want your team to stay sharp. Even though we came up short, we still did some good things, but it’s probably a good time to step back.”

On the opportunities down the stretch at Wake Forest…

What a great night D.J. Horne had. With 1:26 left, he got a great pass from D.J. Burns, and if that shot goes down, it’s probably a different game for us, maybe a different outcome. I thought we got some really good looks, even in the first half. We just didn’t make them. I thought, down the stretch, we got some good ones. I thought D.J. Burns could have been more aggressive as far as his post moves, getting inside and scoring.”

On preparing for Clemson…

We’ve just got to get ready. You look at all of our ACC games: all but two of them have been possession games. Some of them, we’ve been on the winning end of that. When you think about Wake Forest at home and Virginia at home, we played really well. The way we played at Syracuse was just okay. Everything’s been possession. The first part of the week, I just want to concentrate on us and get better in our situation, then we’ll turn our attention to those guys. I know P.J. Hall is a load, but [Ian] Schieffelin has been playing really good basketball also. We’ve got to focus on getting better in those situations.

On the ACC getting more respect from national media…

Well, I think everybody in this league is frustrated because we know we have great coaches, great players, and great venues to play in. The unfortunate thing is that when you lose to a team in the bottom of the league, it’s very detrimental to our teams more than other conferences. The exercise I’ve done in the last couple of days: take your top six or seven teams and apply it to the Big 12, the Big 10, the SEC, and even the Big East. If you look at those guys record-wise, overall and in-conference, not only are they in the tournament, they’re probably a five-, six-, or seven-seed. This is a tough league. We perform so well when we get in the tournament. I know no one likes to hear that part of it, but at the end of the day, this should be a seven- or eight-[bid] league. We’ve done well. It’s weird because, when we win our [inter-conference] challenges, we don’t hear much about it. When we lose our challenges against other conferences, we hear so much about it. It’s become a complete numbers game. Unfortunately, I think it takes away from the sportsmanship. Maybe a 20-point game could’ve been a 40-point game, but you’re going to reward some of those games who work really hard everyday in practice, and it’s because of the numbers that our games become, “Hey, you’ve got to beat the heck out of people just to improve our NET” because most of the things are going toward the NET. That’s an unfortunate thing because I don’t think it was intended for that. I know we talked about capping it at 10. For example, we had a great game against Wake Forest, a four-point game. They deserve to move up a little bit in the NET because they won the game, but they go down three, and we stay the same. It’s something a little flawed with that, and we’ve got to figure out why we put so much attention to it. Hopefully when it gets down to the committee, they won’t put everything into the NET, and they’ll look at a lot of factors.

On Horne’s growth…

He’s playing at a high level, playing with a lot of emotion. He’s carried us the last three or four games. I’m happy for him. When we recruited him, he’s one of the guys I thought could come in and play in the same role as Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith. You never know until they get here. He’s played really good basketball the entire year. He’s just played elite basketball the last three or four games. I don’t know where we’d be without him. We’ve just got to get some other guys playing with him to complement his play.

On Ben Middlebrooks’ return to Clemson…

I’ll just let him play. Players know. When they get a chance to go back and play against their old team, they know. I don’t have to say anything to motivate him. He just has to be ready to play in those situations. I’ve always found out: you can be overhyped and score two points or be even-keeled and have a really good game. He’s just got to focus in, play NC State basketball, and not get caught up in the other stuff.

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