NC State, with a huge size advantage in the paint, went to its strength right away and jumped out to an early 11-4 lead behind the play of Gavin Grant and J.J. Hickson.
However, Sam Hinnant's deep three from the corner cut the lead down to 11-7 and that shot set the tone for the night. Hinnant would hit another five three-pointers, including a deep 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that tied the game at 38.
The Pirates hit 8-of-12 3-pointers in the first half to offset strong efforts from Grant and Hickson.
The Pack came out in the second half intent on pulling out the victory, as a variety of players contributed to a quick start. Following two free throws from Grant, the Pack led 47-38 and seemed to seize control of the game. East Carolina didn't fade, using a 16-6 spurt to take a 54-53 lead with just over 11 minutes left.
Both teams would exchange leads for much of the second half, and two more Grant free throws tied the score at 64 with just over two minutes remaining. East Carolina would make the big plays down the stretch. Hinnant hit another deep 3-pointer over Fells, and Cory Farmer stole the inbounds pass and knocked down a jumper to give the Pirates a 69-64 lead at the two-minute mark.
NC State had its chances. Brandon Costner missed two free throws, including an airball, and Hickson had a layup in the final seconds that would have cut the lead to two but couldn't convert. The Pirates hit their free throws down the stretch, and the fans stormed the court following East Carolina's first-ever win over an ACC opponent.
The Pirates had lost 57 straight games to ACC opponents before tonight's win. NC State (5-3) has now lost back-to-back games and are reeling after entering the season with high expectations and a preseason ranking.
The loss offset a brillant performance from Grant. The senior guard totaled 25 points and six rebounds with zero turnovers. Freshman J.J. Hickson added 15 and eight boards. Costner totaled 10 rebounds, but shot just 2-of-11 from the field with six turnovers.
Hinnant was outstanding for ECU. He connected on 10-of-13 shots from the field, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc, to total a game-high 30 points. Senior point guard Darnell Jenkins added 11 points and a game-high eight assists.
Next up for NC State is a nonconference matchup against South Carolina State on Saturday.