Wolf­pack slams Cata­mounts in re­turn to Reynolds

The News & Observer - - Front Page - BY JOE GIGLIO [email protected]­sob­server.com

The cig­a­rette smoke is gone and so are a good chunk of the red wooden seats but the Longines clock is still up in the cor­ner and you can al­most see 1983 from here, if you look hard enough.

The lights are brighter, and the new coach has Gucci loafers, but the spirit of Reynolds Col­i­seum re­mains the same.

Es­pe­cially when N.C. State is win­ning, and win­ning big, like it did on Wed­nes­day, 100-67 over Western Carolina in a spe­cial night even by the usual nos­tal­gia tour stan­dard.

“It was a great night,” Wolf­pack coach Kevin Keatts said. “I’m glad that we could be a part of it.”

Jim Val­vano’s name was of­fi­cially added to the ti­tle of the his­toric build­ing. Keatts looked good in all red and his Wolf­pack team looked even bet­ter.

Keatts wore a red suit but his shoes — black Gucci loafers with a wolf head — were the true high­light.

“He was flex­ing,” is how guard Blake Har­ris, who had sea­son-high 15 points, de­scribed his coach.

Keatts was feel­ing good and so was the en­er­getic crowd. PNC Arena has mostly been empty for N.C. State’s first six home games of the sea­son. With ca­pac­ity down to 5,500 (from 12,400 in its hey­day) after a $35 mil­lion makeover in 2016, Reynolds is smaller and louder and just more alive.

“The fans are right on the court and there was a lot of en­ergy in the gym,” said Devon Daniels, who led the Wolf­pack with 21 points. “I think we all felt that.”

Daniels was N.C. State’s best player but the real star of the show was the Old Barn. The men’s team left here in 1999 for the off-cam­pus arena next to Carter-Fin­ley Sta­dium but to many N.C. State fans, this is still home.

This was where the ACC was born un­der Everett Case. This is where the best player in ACC Jimmy V gets his name on the build­ing where he once held court, 2B his­tory, David Thomp­son, walked on air. This was the home of Val­vano’s 1983 team, which won the school’s sec­ond na­tional ti­tle and gave life to the con­cept of March Mad­ness in the process.

Twenty-eight years after Val­vano’s last win here, and 25 after his death, he was hon­ored. It’s now James T. Val­vano Arena at Reynolds Col­i­seum (and don’t for­get Kay Yow Court). N.C. State has cov­ered a lot of his­toric bases.

The present is look­ing pretty good, too, for Keatts. Wed­nes­day’s win pushed the Wolf­pack to 8-1 with a visit from Auburn on the hori­zon (Dec. 19) and ACC play soon after that.

Daniels, who was re­garded as one of the best play­ers on the team last year — when he had to sit out after trans­fer­ring from Utah— fi­nally got some of his foot­ing.

He had 16 points in the first half and fin­ished 8 of 12 from the floor with three 3-point­ers for a sea­son-best 21 points. Daniels had 12 to­tal points in two im­por­tant games last week

—a close loss to Wis­con­sin and a 15-point win over Van­der­bilt.

With some early-game jit­ters, N.C. State started rel­a­tively slow. Daniels’ mid-range game was enough to carry them through the lulls. His 3pointer at 5:21 in the first half gave N.C. State a 40-28 ad­van­tage. It was 45-33 by the half.

N.C. State’s de­fense took over from there hold­ing the Cata­mounts (2-8) to eight points in the first eight and a half min­utes of the sec­ond half.

The Wolf­pack forced 33 turnovers for the game with 13 steals. Se­nior Torin Dorn had a game-high four steals, to go with 12 points. Fresh­man Jer­ri­cole Hellems added 16 points to give N.C. State a 17-1 record in Her­itage games at Reynolds.

By the time Markell John­son dunked at 10:09 in the sec­ond half, N.C. State’s lead bal­looned to 75-43. The crowd couldn’t have asked for more. Nei­ther could Keatts.

Be­fore the game, Keatts said he told his play­ers to em­brace the re­turn to Reynolds, the honor for Val­vano and ev­ery­thing about the mo­ment.

“This was my sec­ond chance to coach in this build­ing and what an elec­tric build­ing, what a great place,” Keatts said. “Then you add on the ded­i­ca­tion to ‘Jimmy V,’ and it was un­be­liev­able.”

PHO­TOS BY ETHAN HYMAN ehy­[email protected]­sob­server.com

N.C. State’s Jeri­cole Hellems (4) cel­e­brates after mak­ing a three-poin­ter Wed­nes­day dur­ing the sec­ond half of the Wolf­pack’s 100-67 vic­tory over Western Carolina at Val­vano Arena at Reynolds Col­i­seum in Raleigh.

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