Markell John­son sparks Wolf­pack to win over Van­der­bilt

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Colleges - BY JONAS POPE IV [email protected]­ald­sun.com

At some point, N.C. State point guard Markell John­son de­cided it was time to take over.

With the Wolf­pack nurs­ing a four-point lead Satur­day over Van­der­bilt in the Hoophall Mi­ami In­vi­ta­tional, John­son, who spent most of the day set­ting up team­mates, de­cided it was time to dom­i­nate.

John­son scored 12 straight points to light a fire un­der his team as N.C. State se­cured a 80-65 win. John­son had only four points at half­time but fin­ished with 19 af­ter a se­ries of drives to the bas­ket, and the Com­modores had no an­swer. John­son’s run pushed the Wolf­pack lead to 11 af­ter Vandy pulled to within two late in the sec- ond half.

N.C. State dom­i­nated the first half but needed John­son to get out of a sec­ond-half funk. State had only two first-half turnovers but had five in the first three min­utes of the sec­ond half. The Wolf­pack also went cold, shoot­ing 5 of 19 from the field lead­ing into the first me­dia time­out. Mean­while, Vandy got go­ing, outscor­ing State 24-14 in the sec­ond half be­fore John­son took over. At one point it looked as if coach Kevin Keatts would be with­out John­son, who went to the bench with a leg in­jury briefly in the sec­ond half. Once he re­turned, it took a while to get into a flow, but once one went down, John­son was un­stop­pable.

N.C. State never trailed in the first half, scor­ing the first two buck­ets of the game, only to watch Van­der­bilt counter with not one but two three-point plays to make it a one­point game (8-7).

Lead­ing into the first me­dia time­out, the Wolf­pack were shoot­ing 75 per­cent from the floor and scored six straight lead­ing into the next break in ac­tion. Van­der­bilt didn’t do them­selves any fa­vors, turn­ing the ball over on con­sec­u­tive pos­ses­sions, one of which led to a John­son no-look pass to Fun­der­burk, who threw the ball down to give N.C. State a 17-9 lead.

N.C. State’s de­fen­sive pace was so good that it made up for their mis­takes on the other end. C.J. Bryce turned the ball over on one end, but hit a jumper the next trip down the floor to make Keatts quickly for­get the mis­take.

With less than eight min­utes in the half it reached that stretch where it felt like some­thing good needed to hap­pen for the Wolf­pack be­fore Vandy got back in the came, but Dorn showed se­nior lead­er­ship, hit­ting two jumpers in a row, fol­lowed by a John­son layup and two more free­bies from Dorn.

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