Pack finishes strong, downs Jackets 86-65

For the third straight game NC State built up a double-digit lead late in the second half. But this time there would be no comeback for the opposition, as the Pack finished strong to pick up its first ACC road win of the season 86-65 over Georgia Tech.

Javi Gonzalez picked off a pass, raced down the court and drew a hard foul. With his left hand he managed to throw the ball up, kissing it off the top of the backboard and down through the hoop.

That basket and the ensuing free throw put NC State back up by double-digits with nine minutes left in the second half, after Georgia Tech had cut an 11-point halftime lead for the Wolfpack down to three points. From that point on there would be no nail-biting comeback, no near-collapse, just a smooth ending to the Pack's first ACC road win of the season as it downed the Yellow Jackets 86-65 on Saturday afternoon at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

The Pack had its best shooting performance of the season in picking up its first road win since opening night at New Orleans. The Pack shot 63 percent for the game and hit 9-of-17 from behind the 3-point arc. They also attacked the glass aggressively, out-rebounding the Jackets 33 to 23. The shooting and rebounding was more than enough to make up for another poor day protecting the ball, as the Pack turned it over 21 times in the win.

The Pack had six players in double figures, the most double-figure scorers the team has had all season. Tracy Smith led the way as he picked up his second double-double in a row, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Courtney Fells had 14 points, Gonzalez scored 12 and Brandon Costner had 10 on the day. Dennis Horner and CJ Williams came off the bench to score 11 points each, with Williams providing a huge first half lift with a pair of 3-pointers.

Early turnovers jitters by the Pack allowed Georgia Tech to jump out to a 11-6 at the outset of the contest as the Pack turned the ball over six times in the first five minutes of the game. But as the Pack reigned in its turnover problem, the visitors showed why they've been averaging over 80 points a game in its last five ballgames. The Pack rained in 3-pointers, led by a pair from CJ Williams off the bench, hitting six of its first eight attempts while jumping out to a 29-20 lead with eight minutes left in the half.

The Pack stretched the lead to as many as 16 before the Yellow Jackets made its comeback. Again it was turnovers by the Pack that sparked the Georgia Tech run, cutting the lead to single digits with a minute left in the half on three consecutive Wolfpack turnovers. The Pack would get the last bucket of the half though on a Farnold Degand drive for a lay-up, taking a 44-33 lead into the locker room.

Shooting and rebounding in the first half helped the Pack build its lead over the home team. Five different players hit a 3-pointer in the half, as the team went 7-of-13 from behind the arc and was 58 percent from the field overall. Tech shot just 38 percent. They also out-rebounded one of the league's best rebounding teams in the first 20 minutes, grabbing 20 boards compared to just 14 for the Jackets

The Pack came completely apart at the outset of the second half, continuing to turn the ball over with shocking regularity and the Jackets started to find their offense. Conversely the Pack took only three shots in the first five minutes and missing all of them as Georgia Tech cut it to a three-point game. The Pack wouldn't pick its first made field goal until Dennis Horner hit a bank shot at the 14-minute mark.

But instead of folding, the Pack rallied behind its defensive pressure, as Georgia Tech became the team turning the ball over. With the help of the Jackets' carelessness, the Pack went on an 8-1 run highlighted by Gonzalez's breakaway lay-up and foul. By the five-minute mark, the visiting team was back up by 15 points. They continued to stretch that out on the free-throw line in the closing minutes of the game, blowing out the Jackets in the final minutes.

The Pack faces its most difficult road test of the season this week when it travels to Chapel Hill to take on No. 3 North Carolina. The Pack lost to the Tar Heels 93-76 earlier in the year at home.

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