Kevin Keatts had a plan for how he wanted to approach this week, knowing his team had two games in four days.
But as Mike Tyson once said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth, or in N.C. State’s case, until they play a four-overtime game.
On Wednesday the Wolfpack defeated Nebraska, 104-100, in four overtimes. Sophomore wing Dereon Seabron played 56 minutes, one of four players to log at least 40 minutes.
Keatts had hopes of getting on the court and preparing for the Cardinals (5-2) the old-fashioned way, but adjustments had to be made to save legs.
“As coaches we sometimes have plans and those plans get blown up,” Keatts said. “I didn’t have intentions of going into four overtimes. We did have intentions of playing hard and winning the game.”
N.C. State (6-1) was scheduled to practice on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Instead, Keatts got the guys off their feet and did an extended film study on Louisville.
“It was more of an instructional day off the court,” Keatts said.
The game tied for the longest game in school history and just the third time the Pack has gone into four overtimes. Keatts played 10 different guys and by the time the smoke settled, three of those players weren’t available. Sophomore guard Cam Hayes was ejected in the second half, senior Jericole Hellems fouled out and UVA transfer Casey Morsell left with an injury at the end of regulation.
Morsell had an MRI performed on Thursday and Keatts informed the media there was no break. Morsell will be a game-time decision for Saturday. If Morsell can’t go, that means more minutes in the backcourt for freshmen Terquavion Smith and Breon Pass.
Smith and Pass didn’t start against the Cornhuskers, but finished the game when the more experienced players weren’t available. Being rookies, Keatts knows he has to live with mistakes made, but also realizes how much they grew up playing in a four-overtime win. Young players don’t know what they don’t know, and Keatts actually likes that about them heading into their first ACC game.
“Those guys are fearless,” Keatts said. “They have no idea what type of game they were playing in, they were just out there hooping. That’s what they say ‘we were just hooping, coach.’ Give them credit, I thought they stepped in, even EB (Ebenezer Dowuona) got better as the game went along. You can tell his confidence kept getting better.”
Keatts is going to need that confidence from his entire roster against the Cardinals.
Louisville picked up two big wins over the Thanksgiving break, knocking off Mississippi State and Maryland in the Bahamas. The Cardinals’ last contest, a 73-64 loss to Michigan State, was on the road the same night the Pack played until almost midnight. Keatts hopes because Louisville had to travel that equalizes N.C. State playing extra minutes.
“Sometimes as coaches we overthink things,” Keatts said. “They traveled and came back home, so I’m not even sure what they were able to do yesterday. I’m sure they are just going to come out and play Louisville basketball, just like we’re going to come out and play N.C. State basketball.”
The Cardinals have depth to their advantage, with nine players averaging double-digit minutes. It will also be just the second game back on the bench for Louisville head coach Chris Mack, who was suspended for six games after trying to extort former assistant coach Dino Gaudio.
Louisville won four in a row after a disappointing loss to Furman, before falling to the Spartans on Wednesday — the first game Mack was on the bench. Getting their coach back should provide a spark for the Cardinals, who have won two of their last three games inside PNC Arena. N.C. State has won just two of its last seven games against the Cardinals. No player on this current roster knows what it’s like to defeat Louisville and the team will be coming in on a high after an emotional win on Wednesday.
Keatts knows his team has probably received a lot of pats on the back the last few days, but hopes they put the Nebraska win behind them in a hurry.
“We talked yesterday about turning the page,” Keatts said. “You only have a short time between the times we play a game and the next game to celebrate. Now we have to move on and prepare for a really good Louisville team in our ACC opener.”