NC State wins twice, beats UNC and then adds top recruit

N.C. State’s Terquavion Smith (0) acknowledges the Wolfpack students section as the open a ten point lead over North Carolina the second half on Sunday, February 19, 2023 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

N.C. State’s Terquavion Smith (0) acknowledges the Wolfpack students section as the open a ten point lead over North Carolina the second half on Sunday, February 19, 2023 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

N.C. State scored a big basketball win Sunday.

Two of them, actually.

The Wolfpack used a second-half surge to beat North Carolina 77-69 at PNC Arena. That ACC victory was more than enough to celebrate and the Pack players did, sunglasses and all.

But after the game, NCSU coach Kevin Keatts received a commitment from Paul McNeil of Richmond Senior, a 4-star high school recruit and 6-7 wing from Rockingham. McNeil is the Pack’s first commitment in the class of 2024 and ranked 26th overall in the class by 247Sports.

So ended a stretch of days for N.C. State that had the Wolfpack women rally Thursday to beat the Tar Heels in overtime, the wrestling team beat UNC on Friday and Jarkel Joiner’s 29 points spur Sunday’s big win over the Heels.

Then, add in the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stadium Series outdoor game. That was played Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium and offered NCSU free branding exposure on national TV and the Wolfpack football program something else to entice recruits with the stadium all lit up for the game under the lights.

“This is Wolfpack country …” the ABC telecast intoned with the first aerial shots of the stadium.

Wolfpack football coach Dave Doeren, wearing a red Canes jersey, did an in-game interview. He had a pretty big football win over UNC, too, a few months back.

But the big show for the Pack came the next day as N.C. State secured its 21st basketball win of the season and 11th in the ACC to add to its NCAA tournament resume. The Wolfpack fell behind in the second half but Joiner was too tough to handle down the stretch, scoring 18 points in the final nine minutes.

“We don’t have a lot of five-star (recruits) or McDonald’s All-American guys on our roster out of high school, but I do think we got one in the (NCAA) transfer portal,” Keatts said Monday. “I don’t know that I could have gotten a better combination of a person and kind of player to lead your team than Jarkel Joiner.”

If there was a signature moment for the Pack (21-7, 11-6), it was Terquavion Smith’s lob pass on a fast break to Joiner, who showed off his vertical leap on the slam. The Wolfpack led by 10 late in the second half and PNC Arena was in bedlam.

N.C. State’s Jarkel Joiner (1) slams in two on an alley-oop from Terquavion Smith (0) late in the second half of N.C. State’s 77-69 victory over UNC at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023. Ethan Hyman

“They have developed a great bond,” Keatts said. “They’ve thrown that alley-oop from Terquavion to Jarkel five times this season and it never worked. It actually worked against Carolina and you’d have thought they were two kids in a candy store, they were so excited.”

The win over UNC, coming after a loss at Syracuse, wasn’t enough to keep the Pack in the AP poll – 23rd last week, N.C. State was unranked in the poll released Monday.

The Wolfpack did improve its NET ranking, moving to 36th. N.C. State is 2-4 against Quad-1 opponents and 5-3 against Quad-2 teams in the NET equation used by the NCAA tournament selection committee.

“Winning is fun and takes care of everything,” Joiner said Sunday. “We just keep fighting for our seeding in the tournament.”

Keatts on Monday explained the Pack’s approach to the UNC game, saying, “Here’s an opportunity to get a Quad-2 win against a very good team. It’s either going to be a good win or a bad loss.”

The Pack, after a good win, next hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday and will have some extra guests in the house. It will be a 40th-year reunion of N.C. State’s 1983 NCAA champions, with many former players returning to take a few bows.

“That will be a special moment,” Keatts said. “They’re going to get a chance to spend a little time with us, and more importantly our team will get a little chance to spend time with them.

“I love their story. They created something where no one thought they were ever going to win, and it will forever be the best story in college basketball. What a special group.”

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.

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