Hot start not enough for NC State in NIT loss vs. Colorado State

NC State

FRISCO, Tx. (WNCN) — The N.C. State Wolfpack could not hold their halftime lead and lost to the Colorado State Rams at the NIT quarterfinals 65 to 61 tonight in Frisco, Texas.

“I think our guys played hard we just didn’t make shots,” said N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts. “When you look at that Davidson game we made shots.”

N.C. State’s senior center DJ Funderburk dominated the first five minutes of the contest scoring the game’s first seven points and putting the Wolfpack in front 7-0 early.

His presence diminished greatly once he got into foul trouble however finishing with 13 points and nine rebounds. Manny Bates had 13 points and six boards while the Wolfpack defense held the Colorado State Rams to just 8-of-29 from the field and a paltry 1-of-15 from distance.

The Rams steadily chipped away at the lead in the second half. Colorado State brought more help in the lane stopping the Wolfpacks low post-game. N.C. State helped by committing 17 turnovers, 11 in the second half.

“They started to put one on me and I think they just told him to front me the whole time that’s what it felt like every time we came down regardless of the play,” said senior center DJ Funderburk. “He did a good job at that and made the guards unable to see that I was open a few times but it is what it is.”

“I think they made adjustments because obviously without Braxton Beverly being out there we lost a shooter and so it’s easy just to sag off some of those guys who don’t shoot the ball as well,” said coach Keatts. “They packed up in there a little bit more in the second half and a couple of times I looked up we tried to get DJ to basketball who hadn’t had a touch in a while but we couldn’t get it there.”

Jericole Hellems kept N.C. State from falling behind accounting for a team-high 15 points and five assists.

But the combination of Isaiah Stevens and David Roddy kept the Rams just out of reach with the pair combining for 34 points and 12 boards.

“Both of those guys made really tough shots down the stretch for those guys when they needed it, said coach Keatts. “We were concerned they were at the top of the scouting report trying to figure out how to take Rod his right hand away.”

Down two with under 20 seconds to play N.C. State had the chance to tie the game. However, Hellems’ 3-point attempt was long and the Rams controlled the game the rest of the way.

“We wanted Jericole to come off of the stagger screen or elevator and we thought they would hedge out on it and be able to slip DJ to the rim so it was one of two options either get DJ the basketball on the slip or Jericho to come off and get a jump shot,” said Keatts. “He had a look and he’s played well for us all year long and so I’ll live with his shot.”

No matter when a season comes to a close the end inevitably brings with it a lot of emotion. Be it of sorrow or happiness they come flowing out.

Unfortunately for the seniors on this squad, it was the former rather than the latter. Nobody showed that more than senior center DJ Funderburk.

“It’s a thousand emotions running through my mind. Very emotional in the locker room but I just love my team. I love my team. I love the way we play with passion, effort, everything,” said Funderburk. “I just love my guys and I couldn’t ask for a better group to go out there tonight and play my last game.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of a team than I am of this team, obviously this team has fought through everything that you could ever imagine,” said coach Keatts. “I feel really bad for our seniors especially Braxton Beverly. He couldn’t play in today’s game but at the end of the game in the locker room, I told these guys I’m proud of their fight. There’s isn’t one day, one practice I didn’t think our guys competed and I always said to my guys if you played extremely hard I live with the results and the results were we came up a little bit short but that doesn’t define what type of year that we had and I’m proud.”

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