The Battle 4 Atlantis didn’t start well for North Carolina State and Butler, but one of the teams is going to head home with a little momentum from the tournament.
The Wolfpack (5-1) nearly pulled off an upset of No. 3 Kansas on Wednesday night, and they rebounded from the six-point loss to beat Dayton 76-64 on Thursday.
That set up a Friday matchup in the fifth-place game against the Bulldogs (4-2), who outlasted BYU 75-70 on Thursday, one night after losing to No. 22 Tennessee by 26 points.
NC State put together a 17-0 run early in the second half to beat the Flyers, and got a big game from Jarkel Joiner, who had a season-high 27 points. That overshadowed Terquavion Smith, who scored 11 points, his lowest output of the season. Smith began the day averaging a team-leading 19 points a game.
Smith, a sophomore, could have been playing in the NBA this season, but took his name out of the draft to return to the Wolfpack. His coach, Kevin Keatts, is happy he did and sees a more mature player this season.
“His mentality is a little bit different. He’s making a concerted effort to put extra work in,” Keatts said. “He’s making a concerted effort to put on weight. … And he’s also making good plays. He’s gotten better. And he’s focused and he’s locked in.”
Butler will have to stop him and Joiner if he wants to head home with two wins in the tournament. The Bulldogs were tested against the Cougars, especially down the stretch when BYU cut an eight-point deficit with 5:10 left to one point on two occasions.
“As long as these guys stay tuned in to what we’re teaching and stay tuned in to the attention to detail of things, I think we’ve got a chance to have a really good basketball team,” coach Thad Matta said after the win over the Cougars. “I don’t think we’re playing our best basketball yet, and that excites me.”
The Bulldogs have five players who are averaging in double-figures scoring, led by Jayden Taylor at 16.2 points per game. The four others are between 12 and 12.8 per game.
–Field Level Media