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Johnson’s Strong Play Late Helps Wolfpack Defeat Commodores

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The junior guard scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half

MIAMI, FLA. – Junior guard Markell Johnson scored 12 straight points for the NC State men’s basketball team during a crucial stretch late in the second half to lead the Pack to an 80-65 win over Vanderbilt Saturday evening in the HoopHall Miami Invitational played at American Airlines Arena.

The win was the 100th career collegiate victory for NC State head coach Kevin Keatts as the Pack led wire-to-wire.

NC State had a 12-point lead, 46-34, at the half, but Vanderbilt had cut the deficit to just two points, 60-58, with 8:31 to play when Johnson took over.

With 6:40 to play, Johnson started his spurt with two free throws to stretch NC State’s lead to four. On the next possession, Johnson hit a jumper to extend the lead to six. Vanderbilt took a timeout to try to slow the Cleveland, Ohio, native down, but the Commodores missed a three-pointer on its ensuing possession and Johnson hit a three-pointer on NC State’s next possession to give NC State a nine-point lead, 67-58, with 5:26 to go. The Commodores made a three-pointer its next time down to cut the lead to six, but Johnson answered again, this time with an old-fashion three-point play as he drove to the hoop and hit the lay-up through contact. The ensuing free throw gave NC State a 70-61 lead with 4:54 to go. Vanderbilt missed a three-pointer on its next trip down and Johnson corralled the rebound and then went down and scored again for NC State to put the Pack’s lead back in double-digits at 11 with 4:02 to go.

Braxton Beverly made one free throw to stop Johnson’s streak of scoring for NC State, but on the next possession he added one free throw and hit a lay-up on the next one to score 15 of NC State’s 16 points and give the Pack a 76-62 lead with 2:41 to go.

On the Pack’s next possession, Johnson found Wyatt Walker for a lay-up to give NC State its biggest lead of the game, 78-62, with 1:49 to play.

From the 6:40 mark of the second half to the 2:41 mark, a total of 3 minutes and 59 seconds of game time, Johnson scored 15 of NC State’s 16 points.

Johnson finished with a game-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added a season-best seven assists.

DJ Funderburk was next for the Pack in scoring with 16 points. The sophomore scored all 16 of his points in the first half as the Pack’s bench outscored Vanderbilt’s bench, 37-21.

Torin Dorn capped the Pack’s scoring with a jumper in the closing minute to finish with 10 points and remain the only NC State player to score in double figures in every game this season.

The Pack opened the game with a Walker lay-up and never looked back in the opening 20 minutes. NC State never trailed as it methodically built its lead in the first half. The Pack’s first five field goals of the game were by five different players as eight different players scored in the first half. Funderburk came off-the-bench and immediately provided a scoring punch as he scored three straight baskets for the Pack as it opened an early nine-point lead.

NC State would increase the lead to 11 points before Vanderbilt went on a 7-0 run to cut NC State’s advantage to 36-32 with 5:34 to go. From that point, the Pack ended the half on a 10-2 run as NC State’s defense only allowed one Commodore field goal and forced five Vanderbilt turnovers in the closing minutes of the half.

The Pack only turned it over twice in the first half, compared to 10 turnovers for Vanderbilt and also scored 26 of its 46 points off the bench in the opening 20 minutes.

NC State finished the game with 17 offensive rebounds and had a plus-13 – 46-33 – advantage in rebounds over the Commodores.

NC State returns to action Wednesday, Dec. 5 when it hosts Western Carolina at 7 p.m. inside Reynolds Coliseum. The annual Heritage Game will open with a special ceremony as James. T. Valvano Arena will be formally dedicated to the legendary coach who guided the Wolfpack to the 1983 national championship.

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