RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State delivered another emphatic statement that it belongs in the NCAA Tournament.
Allerik Freeman scored 16 points to help N.C. State beat Louisville 76-69 on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Torin Dorn added 15 points for the Wolfpack (21-10, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won for the fifth time in six games.
“The only guys who believed in us were the guys in this locker room,” Dorn said. “I’m just so proud of these guys for banding together and being able to get this amount of wins and have the successful season that we’ve had.”
Omer Yurtseven and Braxton Beverly each had 13 points for N.C. State, which is looking to end a two-year NCAA Tournament drought.
The Wolfpack took a 57-48 lead midway through the second half after a 13-0 run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Sam Hunt and Beverly.
Louisville (19-12, 9-9) went scoreless for nearly six minutes as N.C. State built the largest lead of the game by either team.
“I thought our defense was as sharp as it’s been in a long time,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said.
The Cardinals trimmed the lead to 64-62 on a 3-pointer by Darius Perry with 4:29 remaining, but the Wolfpack answered with a 6-0 spurt to secure a win on Senior Night.
Deng Adel scored 20 points to lead Louisville. Quentin Snider and Ray Spalding added 12 points each.
Louisville: The Cardinals couldn’t quite bounce back after a 67-66 loss to No. 1 Virginia on Thursday in a game they led by four points with 0.9 seconds remaining. They enter the ACC Tournament with defeats in four of their last five games, putting their chances for an NCAA Tournament berth in jeopardy. “Have we done enough to get in the tournament at this very moment in time?” Louisville coach David Padgett said. “I personally believe we have, but unfortunately that’s not my decision. . We can’t go up there and get knocked out in the first game and leave anything up to chance.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack have been one of the pleasant surprises of the ACC season, playing themselves into NCAA Tournament position after being picked to finish 12th place in the league. They head into the ACC Tournament with a strong grip on an NCAA at-large berth, but they can improve their seeding with a big week in the Big Apple.
The 7-foot Yurtseven made three 3-pointers, but he had one of his best defensive games with five blocked shots and a career-high three steals. He had three blocks in the final four minutes to help N.C. State protect its lead. “They just attacked on pick and rolls, and they thought they could get layups,” Yurtseven said. “All I did was protect the rim.”
N.C. State led 33-32 at halftime, but the cushion could have been bigger. The Cardinals made just two baskets in the final 9:53 of the first half, enduring a stretch in which they had six turnovers in eight possessions. Louisville finished with 15 turnovers, 11 more than N.C. State.
“I think it was a little bit of carelessness, but they got us back on our heels there for a while,” Padgett said. “We were trying to run our offense at darn-near halfcourt. We were careless and nonchalant with the ball.”
HE SAID IT
“I don’t know. The committee will have to decide that on next Sunday. We look like one. I can tell you that now.” — Keatts on whether his team is an NCAA Tournament team.
Both teams play Wednesday in the ACC Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.