It would have been easy for Braxton Beverly to lose his confidence.
The last time the N.C. State sophomore played at PNC Arena, he had lost his shot.
Beverly has since found his 3-point stroke. He equaled a career-high with 21 points in N.C. State’s 73-58 win over Syracuse on Wednesday night.
Beverly made four 3-pointers and all seven of his free throws. He missed all 12 of his shots, including an 0-for-9 effort from the 3-point line, in N.C. State’s home loss to Virginia Tech here on Feb. 2. Since then, he has gone 13 of 22 from the 3-point line.
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There isn’t a secret to Beverly’s recovery.
“Just shoot and just stay confident,” Beverly said. “In the game of basketball, everybody is going to have off nights. That’s just unavoidable, you know you’re human.”
Senior Torin Dorn had a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) to boost the NCAA tournament case of the Wolfpack (18-7, 6-6 ACC).
But it was Beverly who was able to knock down some important 3s against Syracuse’s zone. Even after the struggles in the ugly 47-24 loss to the Hokies, Keatts knew Beverly would bounce back.
“That’s the guy that I believe in,” Keatts said. “He can come out and go 0 for 20 and then I know the next time he comes, he’s going to play. “
Beverly’s 3 at 16:31 in the second half, his fourth of the game, stretched N.C. State’s lead to 43-34. The Wolfpack went up 61-43 before Syracuse before a brief dent into the margin.
The Orange (17-8, 8-4) got a season-high 21 points from guard Frank Howard but their leading-scorer for the season, guard Tyus Battle, struggled. N.C. State’s defense, guard Devon Daniels in particular, held Battle to seven points (10 off of his average). Stalwarts Elijah Hughes (six points) and Oshae Brissett (two points) also were ineffective.
It was an important game for N.C. State’s postseason hopes. The Wolfpack has been strong in the NCAA’s new rankings metric (No. 37 in the NET) but has been short on quality wins. Syracuse (No. 47 in the NET. But the Orange) and Auburn, both figure to be in the NCAA field and N.C. State had been short on such wins.
The Orange won their first trip to the Triangle, in a stunner at Duke on Jan. 14, and had won six of their previous eight in the conference before Wednesday’s loss.
N.C. State had been trending in the other direction with losses in five of the previous eight games but the Wolfpack got a road win at Pittsburgh last Saturday and followed that up with an encore on Wednesday.
Not that it was a work of art. Neither team could get into any rhythm in the first half. The Wolfpack led by as many 12 in the first half but had 12 turnovers.
The Orange hung around until Beverly wouldn’t let them. Keatts’ faith in Beverly never wavered.
“I’ve never, ever questioned his ability to make shots,” Keatts said. “I love the kid. He works hard. I wish every kid that I recruit at N.C. State is Braxton Beverly. He works hard, great student and low maintenance.”