NC State point guard Markell Johnson hasn’t suited up for a game since sustaining an injury against Pittsburgh two weeks ago, and Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts isn’t giving any indication as to whether or not the junior will be back on the floor Thursday night against Louisville.
“He’s a guy that could play on Thursday [against Louisville] or could play three or four weeks from now,” Keatts said on Tuesday. “I’m not going to play him until he feels mentally and physically ready to play”.
Last season, Johnson scored nine points and dished out five assists in a 76-69 win over the Cards.
Johnson played just nine minutes in the Pitt game before leaving after taking a nasty spill. NC State struggled without him on the floor, but still managed to pull out an 86-80 home win. They weren’t as fortunate three days later when they wound up on the wrong end of Wake Forest’s first conference win. In their most recent outing, they struggled to a 77-73 road win over Notre Dame.
In their two full games without Johnson, NC State has gone just 13-of-48 from beyond the arc. Losing Jackson’s athleticism and explosiveness off the dribble has also resulted in fewer easy points around the basket.
The player most affected by Jonson’s offense has been sophomore sharpshooter Braxton Beverly, who has been forced to slight over and shoulder a significant chunk of the load at the one. With fewer catch and shoot opportunities, Beverly has gone 4-of-16 from three over the last two games, and was just 1-of-9 from the field against Notre Dame.
NC State plays at the 17th-fastest pace in the country. That style loses a great deal of its effectiveness when your most explosive guard/most reliable ball-handler is taken out of the equation. We’ll know shortly whether or not that will once again be the Wolfpack’s burden to bear Thursday night.