by Neil Morris
This year, Mark Gottfried’s team entered with an eight-game winning streak and a national ranking. But once again, the Ramblin’ Wreck gave the Wolfpack all they could handle throughout a hard-nosed match that saw 11 ties and 14 lead changes. It wasn't until Scott Wood drained his third of four 3-pointers with 7:13 remaining in the game that N.C. State grabbed the lead for good. Another impressive late-game push by the Pack eventually earned them a 83-70 win in a contest that was far closer than the final score would indicate.
Georgia Tech, which led by seven early in the first half, started off by applying a stingy defense that held the score to the mid-thirties at halftime. But the Yellow Jackets shooting went cold after intermission, going from 43 percent in the first half to 30 percent in the second. Meanwhile, N.C. State got hot: the Wolfpack’s 51 percent was the best by any team this season against Georgia Tech, which had held opponents to an average of 35.6 percent from the field.
That Georgia Tech’s deep bench outscored N.C. State’s for the game isn't a surprise. But the Yellow Jackets also outscored the Wolfpack in the paint 42-38, including holding T.J. Warren scoreless for the first time this year.
However, point guard Lorenzo Brown played with drive and determination, finishing with a game-high 21 points, 10 assists and five rebounds (he also had five turnovers, the product of occasional errant passing and unbridled energy). Scott Wood had 20 points, headlined by those four 3-pointers, while C.J. Leslie chipped in 19. Purvis added 13 points while Richard Howell grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Yellow Jackets were led by 6-11 junior Daniel Miller, who notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Many wondered going in whether the Georgia Tech match would prove a trap game for N.C. State in advance of Saturday’s highly anticipated clash with No. 1 Duke. But, to a man the Wolfpack players said last year’s loss to Tech still stung; even Rodney Purvis, who wasn't even a member of last year's squad, said he felt the pain of that loss since by that time he had already committed to the Wolfpack.
N.C. State now has nine consecutive wins, their longest streak since 2004-5. But as previously mentioned, N.C. State (13-2, 2-0 ACC) returns to the PNC hardwood this Saturday at noon when it hosts top-ranked and undefeated Duke (ESPN).