RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — History sneaked up on Markell Johnson.
Johnson had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help North Carolina State beat The Citadel 83-63 on Sunday night.
Johnson grabbed a rebound with 1:57 remaining to reach the milestone for the Wolfpack (9-3), who never trailed. The point guard found out that he was one rebound away only when N.C. State’s assistant coaches alerted him.
“No matter where it was, I would have dove out of bounds for it,” he said.
Johnson notched the fourth triple-double in program history, joining Julius Hodge and Dennis Smith Jr. (twice) in the exclusive club.
“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “Me playing with Dennis Smith my freshman year and backing him up to coming out here and having the chance to run the team on my own, it’s good for me.”
Devon Daniels scored 18 points and DJ Funderburk scored 14 for N.C. State. C.J. Bryce and Jericole Hellems added 13 points apiece.
N.C. State scored the game’s first seven points and quickly followed with a 13-0 run to take a 22-5 lead midway through the first half.
The Wolfpack led by as many as 23 points in the second half and outscored the Bulldogs 42-18 in the paint.
Kaiden Rice scored 19 points to lead The Citadel (6-6), whose three-game winning streak ended.
Kaelon Harris added 13 points and Alex Reed had 10 points for the Bulldogs. They cut N.C. State’s lead to 72-60 with 4:30 to play, but got no closer.
The Citadel: The Bulldogs entered the contest having scored more than 100 points in each of their last three games, but their opponents in those games included only one NCAA Division I opponent (Longwood). The Citadel struggled with N.C. State’s size, strength and speed, falling behind 40-22 at halftime. “I thought we were a little intimidated at times early, taking shots deeper than where we normally shoot from and not getting the ball into the paint more than how we usually play,” The Citadel coach Duggar Baucom said. “With the way we played, I’m thankful we had 22 points at the half.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack’s performance was lackluster after the fast start, with Beverly’s absence affecting their rotation. But they did what they needed to do against an over-matched opponent, racing to a big lead and extinguishing any hope of an upset.
Johnson’s triple-double came with little warning. He had six points, three rebounds and four assists at halftime, and he was four rebounds and one assist short of the milestone with five minutes to play. He left the game with 3:07 remaining, still needing one rebound, but checked back in just seven seconds later.
N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts denied putting him back in the game to get the final rebound. “Somebody may have whispered to him, but I didn’t put him in the game for that, just so you know that,” Keatts said.
N.C. State guard Braxton Beverly exited the game with 12:16 remaining in the first half and did not return after getting hit hard from behind as he pursued a rebound. He watched the second half from the bench, wearing a sweatshirt with his game shorts. Keatts said that Beverly had a bruise between his ribs and his back and that he hoped Beverly would be available for the Wolfpack’s next game.
Keatts used his fifth different starting lineup in 12 games. Johnson, Beverly and Daniels started at guard, with Pat Andree and Manny Bates opening the game at forward. Bryce, N.C. State’s leading scorer, came off the bench for the third time this season.
“I don’t have a reason for it,” Keatts said. “At the end of the day, what I’m trying to get these guys to understand is that I’ve got eight guys, and I want them all to consider themselves starters, and I rotate them in.”
The Citadel: The Bulldogs stay on the road for the third consecutive game, jumping back into Southern Conference play at Samford on Jan. 1.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack get a week off before they host Appalachian State on Dec. 29 in their final nonconference game of the regular season.