Quick hits and notes from NC State's 70-57 victory over Georgia Tech Sunday evening in front of an announced sell-out crowd of 8,600 fans at the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta.
Play of the game
NC State was nursing a 51-49 lead after Tech freshman guard Marcus Georges-Hunt scored on a put back basket with 7:00 remaining in the contest. In need of a good possession, NC State junior forward C.J. Leslie drove on Yellow Jacket freshman power forward Robert Carter, scored a layup and drew a foul in the process.
Leslie, who shot just 3 of 9 from the line, converted his free throw for a crucial three-point play that put NCSU up 54-49 with 6:35 to go. It started a 10-2 run for the Pack over a five-plus minutes span that put the game away.
Highlight of the game
This game was really devoid of many highlight moments. Perhaps the closest thing to it was when Tech sophomore forward Julian Royal managed to drive around Leslie on the baseline for a dunk with 15:26 left in the game, cutting NCSU's lead to 41-39.
Player(s) of the game
No question who led the way in the first half. Senior center Richard Howell had all of his game-high 18 points in the first 16-plus minutes. When Howell was scoring, NC State was cruising. The last of his points came on a pair of free throws to put the Pack up 32-23 with 3:56 left before halftime. Georgia Tech would score the next seven points to get back into the contest.
Howell would add six boards and three steals in the win. Howell's three offensive rebounds gives him 372 for his career, surpassing former center Kevin Thompson for the most in Wolfpack history.
The second half story were the big plays by Leslie. He had an up-and-down overall game but finished with a solid line of 13 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks. In addition to his huge three-point play, Leslie had two steals and subsequent fast break scores, one a pull-up 15-footer, that doubled two-point State leads.
Grinding it out
NC State took the lead for good on a jumper by Howell at the 13:25 mark in the first half to go up 12-10. That was part of a 12-0 Wolfpack run that had State leading 20-10 going into the under-12 official timeout at 10:55 to go before halftime.
What was amazing was how State held that lead throughout the rest of the game. When the Pack needed defensive stops, they got them. Unofficially, Georgia Tech had 11 possessions from when NCSU took that 12-10 lead until Leslie's three-point play where they could have at least tied the game.
In those 11 Yellow Jackets' possession, they had five turnovers and went 0-6 from the field, with one of the misses coming from three-point range.
Tech had three chances to tie that game at 43 but turned it over once and misfired twice, including once on a close layup by Royal. Those were the last opportunities Tech had a chance to tie it. Senior wing Scott Wood made his one shot of the game to put NCSU up 45-41 with 12:07 to go, and then freshman guard Tyler Lewis hit a huge three-pointer to put NCSU up 48-41 with 10:50 to go.
Defense was strong
Georgia Tech shot 22 of 64 from the field for 34.4 percent, made just 4 of 18 threes for 22.2 percent and turned the ball over 15 times against NCSU Sunday.
The Yellow Jackets matched Maryland's 21 of 61 effort Jan. 16 in College Park for the lowest field goal percentage allowed by NCSU in ACC action. The 15 giveaways trailed only Clemson's 17 Feb. 10 in Clemson for the most by a Pack opponent in league play.
And in a weird stat coincidence, the Jackets shot 4 of 18 from three-point territory in both games they played against NC State. Only Miami (Feb. 2 in Raleigh when they shot 3 of 21 for 14.3 percent) and Maryland (3 of 18 for 16.7 percent) had worst shooting nights on threes against NCSU during the conference slate.
NC State was credited with 12 steals in the game, tying its mark against Norfolk State Dec. 15 for the most in a contest this season. In fact, it was just the third time all year that the Pack had double-digit steals and first in ACC play. The other time was when they had 10 against Western Michigan Dec. 29.
Georgia Tech's leading scorer Sunday was senior guard Mfon Udofia, who had nine points in his final home game. This was the first time all year that State's opponent did not have a scorer reach double digits in points. The Pack came close to that at Maryland, but Terrapin sophomore center Alex Len's game-winning tap-in with 0.9 seconds left gave Len 10 points.
Not Wood's best game
There's something about playing Georgia Tech in Atlanta that does not work well for Wood. He made just 2 of 5 free throws and saw his ACC record of consecutive made free throws snapped last year against the Jackets in Atlanta.
This year Wood shot 1 of 8 from the field and 0 of 5 from three-point territory, one of those misses a rare airball. It's the first time in ACC play and just the second time all year that Wood has not made a three in a game. The other came when he went 0 of 3 against Cleveland State in Reynolds Coliseum Dec. 8.
The Pack overall shot just 1 of 11 from threes, with Lewis' late make extending State's consecutive streak of games with a made three-pointer to 108.
What the win means
NC State improved to 21-8 overall and 10-6 in the ACC while Georgia Tech fell to 15-13 and 5-11 in the league. NC State swept the season series with the Jackets, who joined Clemson and Boston College in losing both of their games to NCSU this year.
The Pack leads the all-time series against the Jackets 54-37 and is now 16-21 at Georgia Tech. State has won four of the last five against Tech.
NC State has reached 10 ACC wins for the first time since the 2005-06 season when they finished conference action at 10-6. That team however ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak, a stretch that would extend to four when Wake Forest blew the Pack out in the first round of the ACC Tournament. This squad has won five of its last six games.
In terms of ACC Tournament seeding, NC State is tied for fourth place with Virginia, one game behind North Carolina. Those three teams are battling for a first round bye that goes to the top four conference finishers.
If the ACC Tournament started today, NC State would be the fifth seed and play Virginia Tech in the first round with the winner playing Virginia in the quarterfinals.
Other stats of note
- NC State outscored Tech in the paint 36-26.
- The Pack won the turnover margin 15-10 and had a 20-6 edge in points off turnovers.
- NC State dominated in transition, outscoring the Jackets 12-0 in fast break points.
- For the first time since inserting freshman forward T.J. Warren into the starting lineup, NC State was outrebounded. The Jackets won the boards 42-36 overall and 16-11 on the offensive glass, which led to a 19-8 Tech advantage in second-chance points.
- Georgia Tech's bench outscored NC State's reserves 26-14.