N.C. State edges Notre Dame 73-68 behind Johnson’s 27 points
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Markell Johnson scored 27 points and D.J. Funderburk added 16 points, including two tiebreaking free throws with 1:38 remaining as N.C. State bounced back from a 12-point, second half deficit to edge Notre Dame 73-68 on Wednesday night.
Jericole Hellems scored 12 points and Braxton Beverly had 10 as N.C. State improved to 11-4 and 2-2 in the ACC. Prentiss Hubb led Notre Dame (10-5, 1-3) with a career-high 24 points, and T.J. Gibbs and John Mooney contributed 14 points apiece.
Funderburk’s free throws put N.C. State ahead 68-66 for its first lead since the game’s fourth minute. An errant Hubb pass resulted in an Irish turnover moments later, and Johnson’s driving layup extended the Wolfpack’s advantage to four points with 53 seconds to play.
Both teams entered the game without the services of key players. C.J. Bryce, N.C. State’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed his third consecutive game as a result of a concussion. Notre Dame senior guard Rex Pflueger, meanwhile, did not play because of a bone bruise in his knee.
Hubb got the Irish off to a good start by improving on the strong shooting performance he turned in Saturday in an 88-87 win at Syracuse, when he was 6-for-12 from 3-point range and scored 22 points. On Wednesday night, he made four of his five 3-point attempts and scored 14 points in the first half as the Irish led by as many as nine points and reached halftime with a 39-34 advantage.
Johnson nearly kept pace with Hubb with 13 points, 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range and four assists in the first half. But the Wolfpack didn’t attempt a free throw before halftime against a Notre Dame defense that entered the game leading the country in fewest fouls per game, and the Irish’s 6-for-7 effort at the foul line resulted in a halftime advantage.
The Irish scored the first six points of the second half and led 51-39 after a Hubb layup with 15:21 remaining, but Funderburk began to assert himself late in the second half in the lane. He outmuscled an undermanned Notre Dame team that used just a six-player rotation, scoring eight points over a five-minute period, helping to turn a 58-49 deficit into a 60-60 tie.
Notre Dame: Consecutive solid performances in ACC road games will breathe some life into a season that wasn’t looking particularly promising a week ago. If Hubb can continue scoring at the clip he has provided over the past two games, the Irish have enough pieces around him to be competitive in most of their ACC games.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack urgently needs Bryce to return to the lineup. He is averaging 16.1 points per game, and his absence leaves Johnson as N.C. State’s only truly dynamic scorer. And with a difficult road test at Virginia Tech coming up, falling to 2-3 in ACC play wouldn’t be palatable for a team with NCAA Tournament hopes.
Notre Dame: Plays host to No. 13 Louisville on Saturday.
N.C. State: Visits Virginia Tech on Saturday.
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