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PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina Attendance: 15,098
N.C. State takes ranking into game against Loyola-Maryland
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State has risen into the national rankings, so now dealing with the prosperity is the next task for the No. 20 Wolfpack.
N.C. State meets visiting Loyola-Maryland in Friday night's game at PNC Arena.
"I'm excited where we're at," N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said, pointing out the team didn't make it through a dozen games with such success by accident.
The Wolfpack (11-1) made it through a rather mundane early schedule, but turned heads with a victory against then-No. 7 Auburn last week before taking care of USC Upstate in the next game.
So that produced a national ranking, something that N.C. State hasn't held in more than five years.
Balanced scoring and a defense thriving on forcing turnovers had defined the Wolfpack so far.
There's no reason to change that formula.
"I think we take every game seriously," said junior guard Markell Johnson, who posted a career-best 27 points against Auburn. "It doesn't matter if they're ranked or not. We just want to win."
In many ways, the Wolfpack might have been motivated by the lack of respect. The team played one of the weakest nonconference schedules in the country across the opening month aside from a road loss to Wisconsin in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. But neutral-court victories against Vanderbilt and Penn State were accompanied by signs of maturity before the conquering of visiting Auburn.
"I think it shows we definitely have a really good team," N.C. State guard Braxton Beverly said. "We are capable of doing really good things this year. We kind of feed off the doubt and we let people doubt us. We did last year and we had a great year last year. We're doing the same thing right now."
Another victory would give N.C. State its best start since the 2005-06 team went 12-1.
Loyola (4-8) hasn't played since last Friday's 97-79 loss at UMass-Lowell. That was the third loss in a four-game stretch for the Greyhounds under first-year coach Tavaras Hardy.
"We're getting better," Hardy said. "Our record doesn't show how well we're playing."
The Patriot League team has allowed more than 90 points in four games this season. The Greyhounds were picked last in the conference.
This will mark the fifth consecutive road game for Loyola, which is led in scoring by junior guard Andrew Kostecka's 19.8 points per game. At least Hardy should be somewhat familiar with N.C. State because he spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach on the Georgia Tech staff.
Keatts isn't about to let up in pushing his team. In last Saturday's game against USC Upstate, he benched the starters at the beginning of the second half, and that seemed to send a message to the team. The team's balance was on display because Eric Lockett, who didn't play against Auburn, finished as the team's top scorer with 15 points as reserves accounted for 62 points in the 98-71 triumph.
This game against Loyola is the Wolfpack's final nonference game before an 18-game Atlantic Coast Conference slate.
"I think we will be fine," Keatts said. "We are going to stay in the moment. Our guys have worked extremely hard to get there. Hopefully, we're going to continue to get better and stay hungry and stay humble."
Updated December 27, 2018