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NC State Basketball

Kevin Keatts: "It's Good To Get Back On The Right Track"

January 27, 2021

NC State head coach Kevin Keatts met with the media via Zoom to discuss the Wolfpack's 72-67 win over Wake Forest Wednesday evening.

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

Opening statement

“It’s good to get back on the right track. I thought our guys played extremely hard today. We've had two really good practices, and what made it special was that it was the first time I’ve had everybody in practice. Everybody was healthy, and so the competition in practice was really, really good. We focused on coming into this game, knowing that those guys could really shoot the basketball. The last couple of games, they made 15 and 13 threes, and we wanted to take away the three-point shot. We also wanted to get back into our pressing. We hadn’t been able to practice a lot, and our conditioning hasn’t been great. We haven’t had a chance to press as much, so we were able to play a little more 2-2-1 and some man-to-man. I saw we forced 21 turnovers, and what was impressive about the 21 turnovers is that we were able to convert on the other end and get some easy baskets. I’m happy. It was good for our guys to be able to [win]. We just want to take this game. We want to continue to build on it. Our guys want to continue to get better."

What does Devon Daniels’ injury do to the psyche of you and the team?

“We’re going to concentrate and be happy. I’ve learned in this league that wins are golden. We’re going to pray for Devon and make sure everything is okay. I don’t have an update for you. Hopefully, I’ll get something here in the next 24-48 hours. We’re going to enjoy our win as much as we can. We’re going to try and build on it. The guys in the locker room are extremely happy. It’s been a long couple of weeks when you think about what we’ve had to go through as far as COVID, not having Manny Bates, and Braxton Beverly not being able to practice. It’s taken a toll on us. There’s nothing like getting home and getting a win to make you feel better.”

The Wolfpack had 19 turnovers. Was there something Wake Forest was doing to force that many turnovers, or was it carelessness with the ball?

“When we play the way we play, we’re going to have turnovers. I certainly don’t like 19 turnovers, but we play fast. I’m allowing these guys to be able to play fast and get after it as much as they can. We’ll clean it up. We’ve been working on it. It’s not been just one guy. It’s been a lot of guys. When you have the leading assist guy that I’ve coached for the last two out of three years leave and, for the first time, we have to have different people handle the basketball, it’s going to make a difference. That’s where, because we haven’t played a lot of non-conference games where we can clean it up, it’s starting to show its head. We’re going to get better in that area. We were doing it before we went down with COVID, and we’ll continue to get better."

You’ve preached about getting one-third of your points off of turnovers, and you got exactly one-third of your scoring tonight off turnovers. Did it feel like you were getting back to doing what you guys do on the defensive end?

“It felt good to be able to get out and play defensively like we like to play. We’re not pressing as much because we haven’t had the bodies, and we haven’t had the chance to press and get better. We haven’t been in great shape because of what we’ve been through. For the first time in practice, we were able to get after each other for the last couple of days, and we got better in that area. I’m proud of the fact that we were able to take those turnovers and transfer them into points. That’s kind of how we play; we like to score in transition, and we like to create off of our defense. I don’t have our deflection numbers. We try to go into every game to get 40 deflections, but I’m sure we were way over 40."

How important was Jericole Hellems’ performance following Daniels’ departure?

“I thought Jericole played great down the stretch. He made big jump shots. He was 6-for-7 from the free-throw line. He also gives you the ability to switch off screens at six-seven. It’s going to be important that he continue to get better. He needs to see the ball go in the hole. He’s had some good games, but he hasn’t had the great games he’s capable of. I’m proud of him for continuing to fight and get better. We’re going to need him regardless of the situation as we go down the stretch."

What was the message to Daniels when he went down?

“Just relax. A lot of times when you’re an athlete, and you’re a really good player, and you go to the ground, your natural thing is to freak out. These guys are not used to that, so I just went to make sure that he relaxed and knew that we were here for him. I told him to take a couple deep breaths to relax and let the trainer and the doctor look at him."

How much did Daniels’ injury contribute to Wake Forest’s late-game run? Is Daniels scheduled for an MRI?

“I haven’t been able to get to our trainers and our doctors yet to figure out what the next step is. If I’m guessing on how quickly we can do things for a situation like that, I’m guessing that there will be some type of MRI probably tomorrow. I’m sure they want to make sure there’s no swelling. I don’t know if they made the run because Devon went out of the game or if they would have made the run regardless. When you look at Wake Forest on every tape that we’ve watched, they made a run in the second half, and all of those games have been down to the stretch. I really couldn’t answer that. If you want me to give you an answer, I would say probably yes. One of your older players goes out, and you sub some younger guys in. I was proud of Cam [Hayes] and also Shakeel [Moore]. I wanted them to finish this game because I wanted them to get that experience of finishing the game, and they did a great job down the stretch."

What did it mean for you to see Hayes and Moore finish the game out?

“I want to give a lot of credit to Thomas Allen, Devon Daniels, and Braxton Beverly. They pulled those guys aside and told them how hard they have to compete every day to be ready for a game. A lot of times when you’re young, you think that you can turn it on at the game. Those two guys had two really great practices, and they played well. I’ve said it all along: if those two guys stick together, they’re going to be really good basketball players for us. The unfortunate thing is that they would have traditionally had games in non-conference to get better in certain areas. They were thrown into the fire. Thomas Allen and Devon’s approach to the young guys was tremendous. I had a good talk with both of those guys about what’s expected of them and what this team needs from them. They’re going to play. They’re going to make some mistakes. We’re going to live with the mistakes that they make, but we just don’t want them to make the same mistakes.

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