CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Allerik Freeman and North Carolina State seemingly couldn’t miss from 3-point range, while the Wolfpack kept relentlessly pushing back any time its highly ranked rival threatened to stretch out a lead.
Now N.C. State can add another marquee name to its list of upset victims under first-year coach Kevin Keatts — this one on the road, too.
Freeman scored a career-high 29 points and made 7 of 7 3-pointers, while the Wolfpack knocked down 15 shots from behind the arc to beat No. 10 North Carolina 95-91 in overtime on Saturday.
“I think these guys are learning how to fight,” Keatts said, “and I think they’re learning how to compete.”
In a game in which neither team led by more than six, it was N.C. State (15-7, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) that finally pushed through in the final seconds in a venue that has been the long-running scene of frustration.
Omer Yurtseven added 16 points and 13 rebounds, including a huge putback with 30.9 seconds left in the overtime and his team up a point. And Markell Johnson sealed the win with two free throws with 3.0 seconds left, capping his own big day with 20 points and 11 assists.
Now the Wolfpack’s notable wins include the reigning national champion Tar Heels (16-6, 5-4), Arizona and Duke when both were ranked No. 2, and a ranked Clemson team on Jan. 11.
“Coach’s slogan has been ‘the new era,” Yurtseven said. “(The win) just shows it and it exactly represents what it says.”
N.C. State had come in averaging 6.8 made 3s per game and had made just 25 of 95 3s (.261) in the past four games, but the Wolfpack shot 45 percent from the floor and 15 of 30 on 3s to give Keatts a bit of a playful told-you-so moment.
“We’re a lot better shooting team than we’ve shown in some games,” he said. “I can say it, I know you guys don’t believe me. … I’ve always said this: a good passing team is a good shooting team, so when we pass the ball, we make the extra pass and our guys are able to get their feet set, we shoot the ball well.”
That was true of Freeman, a graduate transfer from Baylor who can score in bunches but often show shaky shot selection, too. He came in shooting 33 percent from the field, but made 8 of 11 shots Saturday and became the first UNC opponent ever to go 7 for 7 from 3-point range.
“We just had to keep believing in each other, even when the percentages weren’t there,” Freeman said. “We know what we can do, keep shooting.”
Luke Maye had 31 points and 12 rebounds for UNC, while Theo Pinson had career highs of 22 points and 15 rebounds. UNC shot 53 percent, but made just 4 of 19 3-pointers and 11 of 20 free throws.
“We should be better than 5-4 in the ACC,” Tar Heels wing Cameron Johnson said, “but there’s nothing we can do about a game we already played.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack got a needed taste of success in Chapel Hill. N.C. State was just 1-13 here against Roy Williams-led UNC teams coming into Saturday, including last year’s 107-56 debacle that stood as the program’s second-largest margin of defeat in any game.
UNC: That’s two straight losses for the Tar Heels, who look set for a big slide in Monday’s new AP Top 25. They also found little offensive production outside of Maye and a more-assertive Pinson, with starters Joel Berry and Kenny Williams combining for just 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
Pinson finished 10 of 16 from the floor to go with a block and a steal in 36 minutes. At times, he was the best player on the court with his aggressive edge and put-your-head-down-and-attack play.
“I just tried to be aggressive and see what opportunities I had to attack,” Pinson said. “I found some tonight and they’re working out for me, but we ended up losing so it doesn’t really matter.”
N.C. State: Notre Dame visits the Wolfpack next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels visit No. 18 Clemson on Tuesday.