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NC State pulls away late to top Georgia Tech, 72-64

The Wolfpack is 9-4 (!) in the ACC.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at N.C. State Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know how this team does it sometimes, even when I’m watching it as it happens. This Wolfpack team keeps finding different ways to win.

Neither Jarkel Joiner nor Terquavion Smith had a good day shooting the ball—Smith made a three early on and went 0-fer the rest of the game—but DJ Burns and Ernest Ross were there to pick up the slack.

NC State won this game thanks to strong finishes to both halves; the Pack closed out the first with a 10-0 run, with Ross scoring seven points over the last three minutes, including a corner three. Ross also finished 7-7 at the free throw line, which is a hell of an effort for him.

The Pack led 41-35 at the break thanks to the late run, then got off to a decent second-half start, then watched the offense disappear for a good 10 minutes. An early nine-point advantage disappeared as NC State got stuck on 52 points for over six minutes.

Burns and Casey Morsell were crucial in crunch time as NC State managed to turn this thing around. It was Burns who drew a foul and sunk two free throws to give State a 62-61 lead with 2:30 left, and it was Morsell who nailed a three to push it to 65-61 about 25 seconds later. Morsell then created a turnover and was fouled, though he missed the front end. But that was a big stretch from him.

And Georgia Tech didn’t score again until a three with 25 seconds left, but by then, NC State had a three-score lead. The Pack outscored the Jackets 12-3 over the final 2:35.

Burns finished with 24 points as Tech largely elected to just let him get his; Morsell scored 17 points and shot 4-7 from three; and Ross had 16 to go with seven boards, including four offensive boards.

Baby T, to his credit, had 10 assists—he wasn’t scoring, but he was facilitating without forcing his own offense on a cold day, and that helped make this win possible. His assist rate now is over 25%, which ranks 192nd nationally; his assist rate last year was around 15%.

Tech has been the worst shooting team in league play both inside and out but did not look the part today, but the Jackets also turned the ball over on a quarter of their possessions, and NC State finished +8 in turnover margin.

Turnovers, a strong end to both halves, a big step-up performance from Ernest Ross: if you had all of those as keys to victory, I don’t believe you. NC State basketball is a rich tapestry of scenarios. All part of the fun.