Raleigh, NC – Markell Johnson scored 19 of his career-high 27 points in the second half as the NC State Wolfpack took down the No. 7 Auburn Tigers 78 – 71 at PNC Arena. Braxton Beverly paced the Wolfpack in the first half with 14 points and finished with 15 points, while Devon Daniels came off the bench to score all 15 of his points in the second half, and also added eight rebounds. The teams entered the game ranked 1st and 7th in the nation in defensive turnover percentage, and combined for 47 total turnovers, with Auburn turning it over 25 times and NC State with 22.
Auburn was down most of the first half, briefly taking the lead 26-25 with under three minutes to go in the first half. The Wolfpack opened the second half up 35-27. Auburn made one more run to tie the game at 45 and again at 47. The Tigers never led or were tied after the 9:52 mark in the second half.
Johnson finished 5-of-8 from three-point range, and was a perfect 4-of-4 from distance in the second half. His quick release helped create space from the Tigers full court press, while four of his five makes came off a combination of catch and shoots and dribble handoffs. He began drawing traps on the perimeter and he found the open man twice after these as a part of his four assists. He also added thre3 steals, including jumping the passing lane just before the last media timeout followed by an uncontested layup to seal the game. The undersized Beverly (6-0) consistently got open, creating separation off the dribble for a jump shot three times, while making twice on catch and shoot opportunities. Daniels offense was around the rim on a combination of put-backs, post ups and transition layups. He was also 1-of-5 from 3.
Auburn was led by J’Von McCormick with 14 points and thre3 steals. Austin Wiley added 13, along with a team leading six rebounds and two blocks. Auburn finished the first half 0-of-8 from 3-point range, but shot 12-of-16 from inside the arc. Coach Bruce Pearl noted that they intended to get the ball into the paint more in the second half, and made a change by starting the second half with Wiley on the floor for the first time this season. Three of the Tigers first five possessions went to Wiley, and resulted in two layups and three total free throw attempts. However, two quick offensive fouls followed, both on moving screen calls, and Wiley was soon out of the game.
McCormick had his breakout game for Auburn, consistently beating State’s guards to the rim off the dribble for layups. NC State often elected to leave the post empty on these drives and only finished with one block. Coach Pearl acknowledged after the game that attacking the post was open and he didn’t know why his team got away from it.
Auburn’s backcourt of Jared Harper and Bryce Brown was held to 11 and three points, respectively. They were a combined 1-of-9 from the perimeter. Harper added five assists to four turnovers while Brown had six turnovers. Harper consistently past Johnson to the rim, but missed several layups and failed to record a single free-throw attempt. Brown added two steals.
Sophomore forward Chuma Okeke had seven points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block before fouling out for Auburn. He had a poor shooting night as well, going 1-of-6 from distance.
NC State Coach Kevin Keats is now 4-1 against Top Ten ranked teams. NC State (10-1) will face USC Upstate at home on Saturday. Auburn (9-2) will return home to take on Murray State and potential lottery pick Ja Morant on Saturday.
This article was written by Lee Busby, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can follow us on Facebook, or on twitter. We are looking for those interested in our basketball scout apprenticeship program. For information contact us and forward your resume.