Markell Johnson sparks Wolfpack to win over Vanderbilt
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.