NC State returned to the Old Barn after a sabbatical of two seasons. It took an extra session of play before the Wolfpack pulled out the win.
After regulation the outcome had not been resolved but NC State pulled away in overtime to defeat Tennessee State, 67-55, its return to the newly renovated Reynolds Coliseum Saturday. The Wolfpack improves to 7-2 on the season with the hard-fought victory while the Tigers also moves to 7-2 overall with the loss.
Tennessee State was held to only 32.3 percent shooting for the contest. The Wolfpack forced the Tigers to commit 18 turnovers.
"I thought we took a major step with our defense," NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We left our offense somewhere else, but defensively, we got better. It's something we spent a lot of time on obviously, it's been a point of emphasis. Our zone was good for us today. It helped us eliminate some of their penetration. they are a really quick team that gets the ball to the rim really well. I'm not sure we would have won this game two or three weeks ago. We're getting better and today was a lot of fun for our players. I know that."
Terry Henderson led the Pack in scoring with 21 points along with five rebounds. Dennis Smith Jr., who struggled early but picked up momentum as the game progressed, finished with 19 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals.
The unlikely hero for NC State was BeeJay Anya. The senior came off the bench to spell Abdul-Malik Abu and Ted Kapita and responded with the best game of his career. He tallied 12 points and 14 rebounds -- his first career double-double -- along with seven blocked shots in front of a capacity crowd of 5,500 that included the man who was the school's all-time leader in blocked shots, Thurl Bailey, until Anya eclipsed his mark last season.
"My main focus is winning,": Anya said. "Whoever is out there, I'm expecting whatever coach wants us to do, in terms of the greatest plan for us to win. If it's one night Ted, one night Omer, one night me or Malik that's all that matters, a victory. Tonight Ted didn't play as much and I played more. Who knows next game? Whoever is available to play and ready to play or playing the best will play. That's how we'll approach it."
The game was nip-and-tuck for the entire first half. The Tigers were not intimidated and led 30-28 at intermission behind center Wayne Martin's solid play. Martin, who had a highly entertaining duel with Anya for most of the game, finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Tennessee State opened up a 38-30 lead in the second half but then the Wolfpack clamped down defensively. NC State held the Tigers scoreless for over eight minutes to take a 41-38 advantage with 7:25 remaining in regulation after Smith scored on a layup following a steal.
The school from the Ohio Valley Conference was not deterred and Tennessee State led by three points with less than two minutes to go. Anya, who entered the game shooting 48.9 percent from the free throw line for his career, calmly sank two from the line to narrow the gap to one. After Tahjere McCall hit one-of-two free throws to give the Tigers a 50-48 lead with a minute to play, Smith drove and hits to tie the contest with 45 seconds to go.
The Pack had two late chances to win in regulation but came up short. It was the first time this season NC State has played in overtime.
The Wolfpack took the lead early in the extra period but Tennessee State scored five straight points to take a 55-53 advantage with three minutes to go in overtime. The Tigers would not score again.
Henderson hit a three-pointer, his third in five attempts, to give NC State the lead. The Pack closed out the contest with a 14-0 run, culminated by an emphatic, windmill dunk from Smith in the game's waning seconds.
"We all had to bring it," Henderson said. "I told Dennis as soon as we went to overtime, 'let's get this win.' They were a good team too. For us to come back and get that win, it's a great win for us. I'm looking forward to the next practice and getting ready for [Appalachian].State."
NC State, which got back Maverick Rowan Saturday after the sophomore missed seven games following a concussion, returns to action Thursday at home against Appalachian State. The Wolfpack will be with freshman Omer Yurtseven, who has completed the nine-game suspension handed down by the NCAA prior to the season.