The Wolfpacker

March 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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MARCH 2018 ■ 57 WOLFPACK BASKETBALL we held Florida State to 0 of 15 [on three- pointers] — but because I got Sam Hunt to take a charge," Keatts quipped. "That may be the first charge he has taken since the eighth grade, and he was accidentally in the wrong place." Through 29 games, Hunt had 122 field goal attempts and 110 of them were from beyond the arc, where he was shooting a career-high 41.8 percent. Competition Has Helped Wolfpack Turn Corner First-year head coach Kevin Keatts has focused all year on competing and creating more mental toughness. NC State had a 15-17 record last year, but was in contention for an NCAA Tour- nament invite this season with a 20-9 re- cord through Feb. 28. Wanting to compete and erase the ills of last year are a big reason why the team has been successful. "There are certain games I saw tough- ness, obviously in the Bahamas with Ari- zona. When you look at the ACC, our sea- son could have gone in a different way if we didn't win the game at Pittsburgh," Keatts said. "We found a way to win. Every practice, every situation we try to make it a competitive situation. "I took over a bunch that didn't have a lot of success, so I wanted to make every- thing competitive, and they're playing that way now." Whether or not the Pack will return to the Big Dance was not assured entering March, but it appeared likely. "I think if we continue to win then any- thing is possible," Keatts said. "We've put ourselves in a great situation. "I will tell you that we have some great wins. We've done everything possible that a NCAA team can do: winning on the road, having great wins." Sophomore point guard Markell Johnson had a simple explanation when asked about NC State's success — "Just trusting each other." Emergence Of Sophomore Center Omer Yurtseven Sparks Offense Sophomore center Omer Yurtseven has become one of the most improved players in the ACC. A year ago, Yurtseven was in the midst of an uneven freshman year after a rocky arrival from Istanbul, Turkey. He was suspended the first nine games of the season by the NCAA over his amateur status and never quite found a rhythm in his play. Rock bottom was getting benched and not playing in a 70-55 loss to Virginia on Feb. 25, 2017. The 7-0, 245-pound former five-star prospect averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game last year. It took some time and a boost in confidence, but Yurtseven is finally play- ing like the NBA Draft prospect he was expected to be for the 20-9 Wolfpack. He has thrived with his mid-range shooting and become more assertive in the post, which has helped him shoot 59.5 percent from the field and 18 of 36 on three-pointers. Yurtseven boosted his averages to 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and had become the No. 1 offensive option for NC State. He had reached at least 20 points in five games, including a career-high 29 against Clemson Jan. 11, and had posted six double-doubles through the Wolfpack's first 29 games. "I'm impressed with Omer," head coach Kevin Keatts said. "Give him credit, he is the first guy on the floor and last guy to leave at practice. I'm excited for the young man. "He had very high expectations last year, but certainly didn't play as well as anybody wanted him too, especially himself." ■ Sophomore center Omer Yurtseven has de- veloped into the No. 1 offensive option for NC State, and was averaging 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per outing through 29 games. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN Located directly across from the Belltower 919.828.9900 Come Stay and Play with us... Aloft Raleigh Located directly across from the Belltower 919.828.9900 Come Stay and Play with us... Aloft Raleigh

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