The Wolfpack did a terrific job of establishing tempo in the first half, preventing the Yellow Jackets from pushing the ball in transition and forcing them to take guarded 3-point attempts in the half court set. NC State went into the intermission with a 29-27 halftime lead, and accomplished what they wanted early: to establish tempo, keep the fans quiet, and play with the lead.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half and throughout the game, but NC State was able to hit 6-of-20 3-point attempts while Georgia Tech knocked in just 1-of-14 tries. The 15-point difference from behind the arc offset Tech's seven point advantage at the free throw line and led to NC State's victory.
The Wolfpack received another strong second half performance from star guard Julius Hodge. Hodge, who scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half against Wake on Thursday, had 13 points in the half tonight while adding another six boards in the period. Hodge knocked down shots when the Wolfpack needed them most, including a fadeaway jumper late in the shot clock to give the Pack a five-point lead in the final three minutes.
Tech wouldn't go away, as center Luke Schenscher hit a jump hook to trim the lead to three points and after a free throw from guard B.J. Elder, the Yellow Jackets trailed by two with two minutes to play.
The Wolfpack missed two shots in the next minute, a 3-point attempt by Tony Bethel and Engin Atsur had his layup blocked and the rebound secured by Tech guard Jarrett Jack.
Jack, who was huge throughout the game for Tech, hit a pullup jumper with 42 seconds left to tie the score at 51. After a Wolfpack timeout, the Pack came out in their offensive set and used motion to look for the best possible shot attempt. Bethel found a crease late in the shot clock as Jack slipped, giving the Wolfpack guard a lane to the basket as he hit the layup with 9.8 seconds left to give the Pack a 53-51 lead.
NC State then used its final timeout to set up its defense, and Ilian Evtimov did a terrific job of hedging the Schenscher screen to take away a potential Jarrett Jack drive to the basket. Jack passed the ball to B.J. Elder in the corner and his 3-point attempt hit the front end of the rim as time expired, and NC State escaped with the victory.
Hodge finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists while Bethel and Cameron Bennerman added eight each.
Jack led the Yellow Jackets with 18 points and 9 rebounds, and Elder added 10 points.
It was an ugly game for spectators, as NC State and Georgia Tech shot just 40% and 39% from the field respectively.
nC State has now won six straight games against the Yellow Jackets, and Herb Sendek is 15-5 against Georgia Tech during his tenure at NC State.
NC State (14-10, 4-7) now returns home, where they will finish the regular season with four of their last five games at the RBC Center, to play Maryland Wednesday night at 9 PM.