Quick hits and notes from NC State's 79-74 win over Georgia Tech in front of an announced crowd of 16,020 fans at the RBC Center in Raleigh Saturday afternoon.
Play of the game
NC State was clinging to a 69-66 lead with less than two minutes left when Wolfpack sophomore forward Richard Howell had the ball stolen from him by Georgia Tech sophomore guard Glen Rice Jr. with 1:55 left. NC State sophomore wing Scott Wood saved the day however, intercepting Rice's outlet pass and then driving hard at the basket, absorbing the contact from Rice, who did a good job not to foul Wood. Wood laid it in for a 71-66 lead with 1:51 left in the game.
Highlight of the game
NC State went on a nice roll early in the game, jumping out to an 11-point lead at 28-17 with 9:02 left in the first half. During that stretch, Wolfpack freshman guard Lorenzo Brown, who scored 11 of State's first 16 points, threw a nice alley-oop pass from the left wing to the right block, where NC State 7-foot-1 sophomore center Jordan Vandenberg caught and dunked the ball to give State an 18-10 lead with 13:06 remaining the first half.
Player of the game
Wood rebounded from a tough outing against North Carolina Wednesday night when he was held to just three points and had four fouls in 22 minutes by scoring a season-high 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He made 2 of 5 three-pointers and connected on all four of his free throw attempts in the final minute.
Prior to Saturday, Wood had not scored more than 15 points in an ACC game. His output against Tech raised his scoring average to a rounded up 10.0 points per contest (technically he averages 9.96 points).
NC State shot 50.0 percent from the field by making 28 of 56 shots. The starting five was particularly efficient. They made 22 of 38 shots for 57.9 percent, and that percentage rises to 75.0 percent if you disregard freshman forward C.J. Leslie's 1 of 10 effort from the field.
Senior forward Tracy Smith led the way by making 8 of 10 shots, and he finished with 18 points. Brown made 4 of 6 shots en route to 13 points, and Harrow attempted and made two shots and finished with 10 points. The last time the Wolfpack had four players score in double figures was a 72-70 win over Miami at the RBC Center Jan. 23.
NC State had 16 assists on its 28 made baskets and also had just 10 turnovers compared to 14 for Georgia Tech. State has won the turnover margin in three of its last four games, the exception being Clemson when the Pack turned it over just nine times, but the Tigers had only five.
Break out the Austrailian
NC State head coach Sidney Lowe was asked following the game about sophomore center DeShawn Painter, who has not played in the last two games. Lowe said that there simply has been a change in the rotation, and with the way that Vandenberg has been playing, the new rotation may stick for a while.
Vandenberg had a career-high eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, all dunks, and added three rebounds and a blocked shot in 16 minutes. Vandenberg's previous career-high in scoring had been five points at Wisconsin Dec. 1. He had four points, three rebounds and three blocks in the loss to UNC Wednesday night. Prior to the Georgia Tech game, Vandenberg's four points against the Heels had been the most he had ever scored in a conference game.
Before UNC, Vandenberg had played in just six of State's previous 14 games, and no more than four minutes in any of those contests. He did not get off the bench in blowout wins over San Diego, Elon or Wake Forest.
Georgia Tech notables
The Yellow Jackets were led by their All-ACC candidate junior guard Iman Shumpert. He finished with a game-high 21 points, making 7 of 15 shots and added eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and just one turnover in 35 minutes. That was Shumpert's 10th game this year of more than 20 points. Shumpert continues to lead Tech in points, rebounding, assists and steals per game and has been the lone bright spot in a miserable season for the Jackets.
Georgia Tech got good performances off the bench from Rice and sophomore guard Mfon Udofia. Rice finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, but his performance was marred by four turnovers in 26 minutes. That was Rice's seventh double-digit scoring game in his last 10 contests. Udofia added 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He had entered the game in a 2-for-13 shooting slump.
Rice and Udofia helped Georgia Tech's bench outscored NC State's reserves, who played a very good all-around game, 28-15.
What the win means
NC State improves to 15-13 overall and 5-9 in the ACC. The win ensured the Pack of a couple of things. First, they will be no worst than .500 in their overall record entering the ACC Tournament. Secondly, they will be no worse than the 10 seed in the tournament.
The win, coupled with Miami and Virginia's losses Saturday afternoon, moved the Pack back into a three-way tie for eighth place in the conference. In head-to-head meetings, NC State defeated Miami while the Hurricanes knocked off Virginia in overtime. That means if the ACC Tournament was held today, State would be the eighth seed and play Miami, the nine seed, in the first round of the tournament. NC State and Virginia will play each other in a crucial game for seeding purposes Tuesday night in Charlottesville, Va.
The Pack cannot lose any tiebreaker to Georgia Tech, who fell to 11-17 overall and 3-11 in the league. Even if Georgia Tech wins out and the Pack loses out, State would win any tiebreaker over the Yellow Jackets that would involve any combination with NC State, Virginia, Miami and Georgia Tech.
Clemson's eighth conference win Saturday also means that NC State can do no better than tie for the sixth seed. State would need Maryland and Boston College to lose their remaining games to do that, and given State's 0-2 record against those teams, the Pack's realistic seeding for the ACC Tournament will either be eight, nine or 10.
NC State improved to 51-36 all-time against Georgia Tech and has won 10 of the last 15 games in the series. The Pack is 9-1 all-time against the Jackets in the RBC Center and 29-9 in games played in Raleigh, winning 12 of the last 13 contests in the city. Saturday continued a string of close games between the two teams. Thirteen of the last 14 contests have been decided by 10 points or less.
Other stats of note
- The smaller Yellow Jackets outrebounded NC State 33-31 overall and 13-12 on the offensive glass, and Tech had an 18-14 edge in second-chance points.
- NC State outscored Georgia Tech 34-30 in the paint and 18-13 in points off turnovers.
- Georgia Tech had a 15-6 edge in fast break points.