Pack Slips Past Yellow Jackets

RALEIGH, NC -- Cameron Bennerman notched 16 points, four rebounds and four assists and four other teammates added 14 points No. 18 NC State held off Georgia Tech 87-78.

  • Box Score
  • Sendek Audio
  • Wolfpack Players Audio

    NC State dominated the perimeter aspect of the game, going 7-for-16 from the arc in the first half, and 6-of-11 in the second half, drilling a combined 13-of-27 tries from beyond the arc.

    "We knew coming into the game that defending from the three point line was going to be a big part of our job," Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said. "We obviously didn't do that very well today."

    State jumped out to a hot start, hitting three quick 3-pointers en route to an 11-2 lead just three minutes after the tip. At this point, it appeared the Wolfpack would cruise to another conference win, but the Yellow Jackets would fight back, closing the gap to 17-14 over the next four minutes. Georgia Tech knocked down 15 of its first 18 attempts from the field, and led for much of the opening half.

    "They did a great job," Pack guard Engin Atsur said of Tech's comeback. "They kept pushing the ball and found guys. They made shots. We couldn't answer their transition offense."

    The Yellow Jackets shot 68 percent from the field in the first half, due to a combination of hot shooting and poor defensive execution by the Wolfpack.

    Jeremis Smith was tough to control inside, scoring 13 first-half points on six-of-eight shooting from the field. He finished the game with 20 points to lead the Yellow Jackets.

    Bennerman led the Wolfpack's offense with 16 points, but State also received strong contributions from a plethora of players. Engin Astur, Tony Bethel, Cedric Simmons and Andrew Brackman tallied 14 points apiece, while Ilian Evtimov chipped in 13. Atsur and Bethel each drilled four 3-pointers, and Bethel added six assists while Evtimov totaled seven boards.

    Brackman scored nine points in the final five minutes, and thrilled the crowd with a thunderous rebound dunk to put the game out of reach. Brackman also hit 8-of-9 from the free throw line, as the 6'10 sophomore forward provided a huge spark for the Wolfpack.

    "He's an energy guy," NC State head coach Herb Sendek said of Brackman. "That's one of the benefits of having him come in as the sixth man. He just brings great energy to everything he does. He plays to the point where you've got to take him out of the game because he's given you everything he [has]."

    Perhaps the key to NC State's second-half performance was the return of Simmons. An emerging star in the paint, the 6'9 sophomore was saddled with two quick fouls in the first half, but played extensively the final 20 minutes and registered nine points, seven rebounds, and two blocks after intermission.

    "He's a difference maker," said Sendek of Simmons. "He did pick up two first-half fouls. We knew we weren't going to win the game in the first half so we tried to save him.

    "He played with fouls, he stayed on the court, and he continued to play good defense."

    "That was a key in the second half, get the ball inside to Ced," Bethel said. "When we made that run, that's what we did. We got the ball inside, and he was able to kick it outside to guys for open shots.

    "It's obvious, on the defensive end and offensive end. He's our big defensive stopper and he's our go-to man on the inside."

    Bennerman started cold, but heated up in the second half by hitting four of his five field goal attempts, and both of his free throws.

    He also played outstanding defense on Tech's long-range bomber, Anthony Morrow. Morrow entered the game averaging 17 points, but was held to just 15, and Tech needed an outstanding game from him to pull out the victory.

    "I think he only scored 10 on me," Bennerman said. "He's a good player. I just wanted to apply the pressure that coach wanted me to. We've watched film on him and we know what he likes to do.

    "I think I might have given him two buckets. There was a three in the second half and a backdoor in the first, so I gave him two buckets."

    Georgia Tech closed the first half on a 7-0 run and led 41-40 at halftime. Sendek had his team ready to respond, as the Wolfpack held Georgia Tech to 38% shooting after the break.

    "We were just more focused," Atsur said. "When we want we can get stops. I guess our focus was much better in the second half."

    State opened the second half with 13-2 run that included two baskets from Simmons. The Jackets regained their poise and Lewis Clinch hit a 3-pointer from the wing to put Tech ahead 61-60 with 8:14 remaining. But that would prove to be the Jackets last lead as a Simmons slam dunk would propel State on a 12-1 run that was the deciding spurt in a game of spurts.

    "I thought both teams really competed and gave tremendous effort," said Sendek. "It certainly was a game of runs. Guys really stepped up and made big plays down the stretch.

    "Today was a good team win. That's how these guys have played all along. There's nothing wrong with that, there really isn't. They've been unselfish, they have been together, and different guys have stepped up for us."

    The Jackets had a solid game statistically, out-rebounding the Pack 34-30 and shooting 51% for the game. "They were getting it into the post easy and we allowed some really easy transition opportunities in the first half," Sendek said. "I think giving out some of those easier shot opportunities contributed to their high shooting percentage."

    Georgia Tech forward Theodis Tarver was reinstated after a week long academic suspension, but he was plagued by foul trouble and could only muster two points in 14 minutes. Morrow scored 15 points for the Jackets and Lewis Clinch added 14 off the bench.

    Next up for NC State (14-2, 3-1) is a huge conference contest, as the Wolfpack travels to Durham Wednesday night to face the nation's best team, Duke (16-0, 4-0).

    "We haven't prepared anything on Duke yet, and now we have four days to prepare for Duke," Brackman said. "It's going to be fun."

    "To go over there and win, we're going to have to be extremely cautious and prepared," said Evtimov. "We're going to take what they give us."

  • Pack Pride Top Stories