Hokies hand Pack third-straight loss, 77-69

RALEIGH, NC -- NC State lost its sixth game in its last seven outings on Wednesday night, falling to Virginia Tech 77-69 in the RBC Center.

There is no doubt NC State entered Wednesday night's game against Virginia Tech in need of a win, but if nothing else, the Wolfpack desperately needed a game of improved play. A consistent 40 minutes coupled with a victory would have been the perfect medicine after a tough stretch of ACC games.

By night's end, NC State could claim neither.

NC State battled all night against the Hokies, but the Wolfpack ultimately had no answer, falling 77-69 and losing its third game in a row to fall to 12-10 overall and 2-6 in conference play.

Virginia Tech led for the final 35 minutes despite NC State's best attempts to claw back into the ball game late. The Wolfpack cut the lead to six at 63-57 with 4:29 to play before a 6-2 Virginia Tech run pushed the lead back to 10 with just over two minutes to play.

A made basket followed by a turnover. A defensive stand followed by a poor shot. It was that type of night for the Wolfpack, who once again failed to play consistently for two halves. Following the game, Sidney Lowe said it was those moments of inconsistency, especially in the games final six minutes, which cost the Pack.

"We haven't put two halves together in a long time, offensively and defensively," he said. "We dug ourselves a whole early in the first half. That really hurt us. We picked it up defensively and made some nice runs but turned it over at key points. Those major factors cost us the ball game."

Virginia Tech dominated in the paint, out-rebounding the Wolfpack 46-35 while also scoring 23 second chance points on 19 offensive rebounds. Victor Davila and Jeff Allen were the difference makers inside, pulling down 13 and 11 rebounds, respectively. Virginia Tech's inside dominance even forced NC State out of a zone, a strategy Lowe had hoped would slow the Hokies down.

"That's the problem when you play zone," Lowe said. "We tried to change some things up to slow them down a little bit and we went to zone after makes. You will give up some rebounds if you don't block out."

Perhaps even more frustrating for NC State was the fact that it had worked on rebounding more than normal in the days leading up to the game.

"The last few days in practice, we've worked on block-outs and putting a body on someone," Lowe said. "We told everybody to find a man. The lack of results was tough because we've worked on it hard the last four or five days."

CJ Leslie led NC State with 18 points and six rebounds, but only two other players -- Scott Wood and Tracy Smith -- scored in double figures. Both finished with 11. The loss -- NC State's sixth in its last seven games -- comes three days before the Wolfpack travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Duke.

Ryan Harrow missed his second straight game Wednesday night due to flu-like symptoms. Lowe said Harrow received fluids Tuesday and will have a chance to play this weekend.

"We're hoping he's going to play on Saturday," Lowe said. "He stayed home tonight, we didn't think it was a good idea to be here."

The Hokies, led by Malcolm Delaney's 22 points and four assists, had four players finish in double figures. Forward Jeff Allen finished with 15 points while Terrell Bell and Erick Green both tallied 13.

Virginia Tech scored 19 of its 23 second chance in a dominant first half to build a 39-26 lead following the first 20 minutes. That lead proved to be the difference in the second half, a half in which NC State did play better. CJ Williams, who finished with nine points in a season-high 30 minutes, said the Wolfpack need to be ready to play with intensity from the tip.

"We see that we have what it takes to come back -- now we just have to play with that mentality from the jump ball and try to get ahead on them," he said.

Heading into Saturday's match-up with Duke, who is tied atop the ACC with Carolina, Lowe said NC State has to keep fighting to get better. With just eight games remaining in conference play, that is all the Wolfpack can do.

"We just have to keep going," he said. "We need to just keep believing in each other and fighting and put together a complete game, two halves. It's time like this you circle the wagons. If we just stay with it and keep working."

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