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Wednesday's 69-54 win against Wisconsin at PNC Arena was a big one for the NC State basketball team. Even though the Badgers are only off to a 4-4 start, it's the kind of result that could make a difference if the Wolfpack finds itself on the NCAA tournament bubble again this March.

It's especially important coming on the heels of a loss to Memphis in Brooklyn last Thursday, a game the Wolfpack let slip away with a bad six-minute stretch at the end of the first half.

Here's what coach Kevin Keatts said afterward about the win against the Badgers, its significance, his team's effort, C.J. Bryce's benching and budding star Jericole Hellems ...

“I thought we did a lot of really good things tonight. I say tonight because obviously it's late. I was really impressed by our defense. I thought we carried over from the second half in a different game, especially when you look at the last six or seven minutes of the half. I thought we did a great job in those areas.

"When you’re playing against a Wisconsin team that makes it tough for you to score, they climb on you and drive your lanes, which is one of those games where if you can find a way to score, certainly you can win the game. We talked about the days leading up to this game. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not scoring the basketball that’s making a defensive game, and I thought our guys did a great job in that area, so I’m excited about it."

"I’m proud of Jericole. He’s been the guy the last three games or so who’s played with a lot of energy and done a lot of good things for us, and he’s being rewarded for it. So I’m happy with where we’re at. We’ve got to continue to get better, but I thought we learned from the Memphis loss.”  

As big a win as this was, Keatts did his best to downplay it afterward by saying that all wins are important ...

“I feel like we have to have a wall up. They actually asked me on the radio show, ‘How do you feel because you have such a tough stretch?’ and I said, ‘We’re always going to have a tough stretch, because we play in the ACC.’ We look at one game at a time."

 "We felt like if we had played better in the first half against Memphis, we would have put ourselves in a better situation to win the game, but it's good because we got well. I’m always talking about when you lose a game, you’re a little sick. I thought we got well tonight. I thought we bounced back, and it was an important game because it was the next game and against a Power 5 team.”

Keatts was asked if this was the Wolfpack's most complete game of the season ...

"You could say that. I feel like our guys competed for 40 minutes. I say that all the time. Our guys always compete well, always fighting, but I think we did some good things. I did a great job at halftime. I drew up an unbelievable play for Markell (Johnson) to hit that three to go into halftime to get it up. I thought that was the best one that I drew up probably in a few years. He did a tremendous job making that shot. I like where we’re at. Obviously, I know we have to continue to get better."

"Our guys know that we only have eight guys right now, and so everybody is going to play. So, we’re trying to get everybody to have complete 100 percent buy-in. You’re going to play as hard as you can or we’re going to get somebody else in there and let those guys play hard.”  

Keatts said he was most pleased with how smart his team played ...

“Our key was to play smart. We haven't finished a couple games. The two we lost I don’t think we played down the stretch. So that may be me, making sure I’ve got the right people in at the end of the game. I thought our guys played with the lead. I taught that this is a long season. You’re going to have highs and lows. You’re going to have some games where you’re up 10 to 15 and you’re going to have some games that are going to wear you down. How consistent can you stay? Take good shots. Run your offense and rely on your defense. I thought we did that.”  

Keatts was asked about Hellems' recent offensive surge, which has seen him put together back-to-back career-high scoring efforts. After scoring 17 against Memphis, the sophomore forward hit for 23 points against Wisconsin ...

 “It’s his confidence, but he plays with passion and energy. When you look around college basketball, there are always one or two guys on the team that might not be as skilled as the other guys on the team, but he just plays hard. A lot of his playing ability is coming because he plays hard and because he bought in on the defensive end and he’s making shots. I actually wanted him to take a few more shots. I thought he passed up on a couple of threes he could have taken, but he works on his game.”  

Although he wasn't asked directly about it, Keatts addressed the reason for Bryce not being in the starting lineup for the first time this season on Wednesday ...

 “Most people would say, ‘Did you not start C.J. Bryce because he went 2-for-12 against Memphis?’ I’m not like that. I stick with guys despite having a bad shooting night. He missed film last night. His reasoning for missing film was very valid, but it doesn’t matter to me because he missed film. We have standards with what we want to do, so we gave someone else the opportunity. That being said, I thought he was mature about it and handled it well. I wanted to see if he would pout about it, but I don’t think he did, and he bounced back and made some big plays for us.”  

Finally, Keatts addressed what he called "a quality win ..."

 “It is great. I hope it goes a long way. I hope Wisconsin gets everything together and they go and win the Big Ten. Anytime you play a Power Five team that you know plays in a good conference, it’s a team that is going to have some great wins as they get going. But yes, I am happy about it.”