RALEIGH, N.C. — Auburn has the top 25 ranking. NC State has Markell Johnson.
Johnson scored a career-high 27 points to lead NC State to a 78-71 win over No. 7 Auburn on Wednesday night. It was the first time a top-10 nonconference opponent visited PNC Arena since the 2011-12 season.
Markell Johnson caught fire for NC State in the win over No. 7 Auburn 🔥 pic.twitter.com/CL5UAn7Gtq— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 20, 2018
The building was loud and Johnson delivered the goods. The junior point guard had 10 points in a 75-second sequence midway through the second half to tilt the game in favor of the Wolfpack (10-1).
Devon Daniels added 15 points, all in the second half, for the Wolfpack, who improved to 4-1 against top-10 teams under second-year coach Kevin Keatts.
With the score tied at 47, Johnson made a 3-pointer at 9:47 and then followed that up with another 3 and a free throw. Then, in transition, he pulled up from 3 and buried another jumper for a 57-49 lead at 8:31. That precipitated a scream from Johnson and a roar from the PNC crowd.
Johnson finished with a career-best five 3-pointers.
Get the dub. Do the dance. pic.twitter.com/wnZZWoPcEM— NC State Men's Bball (@PackMensBball) December 20, 2018
Guard J'Von McCormick led the Tigers (9-2) with 14 points, but Bruce Pearl's ultra-athletic team turned the ball over 25 times.
It was sloppy on both ends in the first half, but Braxton Beverly (14 points) was hot from the outside and Auburn couldn't buy a bucket. NC State led 18-6 and 22-10 before the Tigers went on a 16-3 run to take a brief 26-25 lead.
Johnson was able to manufacture two NC State baskets in the final 45 seconds of the first half to push the margin back to 35-27.
NC State has only played five ranked nonconference opponents at PNC Arena since moving here before the 1999-2000 season. The Wolfpack had won just one of those games before Wednesday.