Photo by Steve Murphy/Inside Pack Sports
NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: Pack Focused On Finishing Games

February 19, 2024

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media for the ACC's weekly teleconference to discuss the Wolfpack's win over Clemson, Casey Morsell, and much more.

NOTE: Click the video above to watch the interview.

Thoughts on the finish in the win over Clemson and what it does for State...
It was a great game.

Actually we've been in a bunch of those games this year.. early on in the year against Boston College, against Notre Dame, and here recently, last couple of games, was Wake Forest and Pitt.

It was a great atmosphere. Obviously, Brad's done a really good job this year and his team is playing well, and obviously, going on the road and getting a really good win was good for our guys.

I just thought DJ Horne made a great play and more importantly on the back end of it I think we did a good job without fouling and got a good stop with nine seconds left on the clock.

It was a great win. It's something that we can continue to build on and get better from. In the world of the NET and when we talk about Quad 1s, it was a good Quad 1 win for us, especially on the road.

What jumps off the film that concerns you with Syracuse?
Well, I think a couple of things is they're really good in transition. They do a great job. They get the ball out quick, and they try to get the ball up the floor as much as they can.

The last time we played them, quite honestly they took 32 free throws and that didn't work out for us; we only got 11, so we didn't do a good job in that area.  I think Judah Mintz himself took 21. We've got to do a good job with that.

I think now because he doesn't have as much depth, they're starting to have a mixture of a little bit of man and some zone, so I think that’s a couple of things that we got to work on.

Usually, when coach Boeheim was there, you knew preparing for Syracuse, you had to spend every minute on their zone. Now with what Red is doing, he's playing a combination of both. So you've got to do a little bit of both now.

You’ve had some high-scoring guards.  Could you put into perspective how high a level that DJ Horne is playing at right now?
It's crazy that you asked that question because I don't know that he's actually getting the credit that Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith got because those guys could really score the basketball and even we had guys like Seabron.

The anticipation was coming in that he wouldn't be that type of scorer. Obviously, DJ came in and he was averaging about 12 points a game... a little over 12 at Arizona State, but he's had a five-game stretch that's probably as good as anybody in the country; shooting the basketball... playing overall.

He's meant so much to our team because of his ability to score the basketball, and it's weird because he's very efficient in the way he's doing it. I've played him some at the point, I played him some off the ball, and he's been so important in us getting over the hump in a lot of these games.

I give a lot of credit to him. He's worked extremely hard on his game, and right now he's seeing a big basket.

Two games at home against teams who are Quad 2, Quad 3... how do you avoid that letdown?
The weird thing is, I don't know if we can call any of these games possible letdowns.

You look at the parity of our league. We can talk about Syracuse because they're tomorrow and they've got seven wins. We lost at their place.

You just look around college basketball, and in particular our league, I think everybody's beating up on one another.

On any given night, it seems like anybody can go into someone's place and win.  I didn't know if somebody was going to go into Virginia and get a win this year and then Pitt did a great job doing that part of it.

I just think we've got to stay the course. I think we got to do a good job of being us and kind of build on the Clemson win. When you look back at the Pitt and Wake Forest games, they were one-possession games. They could have kind of went either way.

I think literally with every team, I say this every year but moreso this year, you've got to really focus on that next team and try to lock in and do a great job of preparing for those guys because every team is so equal.

Your three bigs were 7-of-21 at Syracuse. Do you feel like you have a better feel for the rotation with the bigs and do you feel offensively they are feeling better?
I thought our rotation was good. That was the first one of those games we started Ben and Mo  together and brought DJ off the bench. To be honest with you, our bigs just didn't play well. They really struggled.

Those are the three guys who are starting to play well together, and we've been able to rotate them in and out and playing both Ben and Mo a little bit at the four.

They've got to play better in those types of games, but that was probably the one game that I didn't think that any of our post guys played well.

What did you like about starting those two bigs at Clemson?
Well, it worked out for us. 

Everybody knows this: When you're playing against Clemson, PJ Hall will be most of the conversation because he's so good, and he's done it for so many years here, but Ian Schieffelin has been having a great year. Obviously, we couldn't match their size and physicality if we didn't play two bigs at that time.

Both of those guys are really good, inside and out.  PJ has really started shooting the ball from three, as you saw in our game, and Schieffelin has really hurt us over the past... both of those guys with their interior play.  So we needed size to be able to combat some of that.

I thought between Ben, Mo and DJ, I think they all responded in a very positive way for us.

The play Casey Morsell had... creating that jumpball/steal. How important does it show each possession counts.
I don't know what was better, his held ball or him picking me up at the end of the game.

It was a big play. Our league, as I talked about earlier, our league has come down to a lot of possessions, one or two possessions at the end of the game.  That was one where we considered that's a winning play. He made a winning play there with it our ball on a held possession. We told our guys that... how many timeouts and who would get the ball on a held ball.

I just thought when Mo missed that free throw, he did a good job of sticking his nose in there and really tying the ball up. It really actually put us in a situation and gave us the opportunity to win that game.

One of the things we worked on last week, during our week off, is trying to finish off games. If you look at games at the end, the team who makes the least amount of mistakes down the stretch with about five or six possessions usually is the team that wins the game. I thought he made a winning play there.

The ACC Tourney is headed back to DC. You have a guy in Casey from my hometown. What’s it like recruiting those DC-area players?
I need a few more.

Jeff Capel is getting them all now.  He has the good guard from the DC area.  My Hargrave days, some of my better teams were guys from the DC area.  DMV... we had some really good players. When I took that job obviously we had Lennard Freeman from there. 

Good players, good place. It’s a basketball area and I’m excited to go back and play in the tournament there.

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