The Standard Journal
North Carolina State fights past Georgia Tech for ACC victory
Georgia Tech didn’t look like a team that had lost eight straight games. And N.C. State didn’t look like a team that has been on a roll in its past eight.
The Yellow Jackets came into PNC Arena on Saturday making shots and making the Wolfpack — and its fans — very uncomfortable before N.C. State finally secured a 72-64 win.
D.J. Burns carried the Wolfpack offense with 24 points as guards Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner were conspicuously quiet.
Casey Morsell had 17 points, knocking down a 3-pointer from the corner for a 65-61 lead with 2:06 left in regulation. The Pack also got a boost from Ernest Ross, who had 12 points in the opening half and 16 in the game.
A few days after blowing out Florida State at PNC
Arena, the Wolfpack had a sluggish, unfocused start. The Yellow Jackets were effective with a 1-3-1 zone much of the game, limited the Pack’s transition game and ran their offense efficiently enough.
In their past two games, the Yellow Jackets had taken a 43-point loss at Duke and then lost at Louisville in the duel of ACC cellar-dwellers. They also were beaten 78-66 by the Pack in Atlanta during the losing streak.
But the Jackets’ zone kept Smith and Joiner completely in check. After a 32-point game against FSU, Smith and Joiner each were held to five points on a combined 3-of17 shooting from the field.
Smith’s left-handed dunk on the break in the second half tied the score 54-54 and had Wolfpack fans up and loud, but Ja’von Franklin responded with a 3-point play for Georgia Tech with six minutes left. So it went down the stretch.
A 3-pointer just before the first-half buzzer by Morsell gave the Pack a 41-35 lead after the Yellow Jackets led much of the period.
Burns had 14 points in the opening half, when the Yellow Jackets ran their halfcourt offense well and were disruptive enough with their 1-3-1 matchup zone.
Georgia Tech, shooting 39% in ACC games this season, hit six straight shots in building a 19-11 lead as Kyle Sturdivant hit a couple of the five 3-pointers the Jackets made in the half.
In one lineup switch from the Jan. 17 game in Atlanta, the Jackets started Franklin, a 6-7 senior, at center instead of 6-11 Rodney Howard. That forced Burns to match up against a smaller, quicker player defensively but also gave him the advantage when the Pack had the ball.
NCSU coach Kevin Keatts was hot in the team huddle
during the first half, loud and demanding.
Keatts got the message across. The intensity level
picked up, and the Yellow Jackets’ lead dwindled.
The Pack again got a jolt of energy from Ross. In one
first-half sequence, he blocked a shot on one end of the court and then converted a 3-point play on the other end.