Winning at home in the ACC is one thing, although never a given.
On the road? You better be ready to lace ‘em up tight and battle for 40 minutes.
That’s what it took N.C. State to finally get out of Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum with a 73-69 victory Saturday, the Pack’s first ACC road win of the season.
The Wolfpack never trailed in those 40 minutes. Not once. But the Pack could have crumbled in the final minutes of the game when the Hokies came alive, strongly surged and had a full house at Cassell rumbling.
“They made it a really tough game at the end and we pulled it out,” NCSU coach Kevin Keatts said. “It’s a good win. Any win in this league is really good but a road win is golden.”
The Wolfpack (13-4, 3-3 ACC), showing no letdown after its 24-point win over Duke, led the Hokies by 14 points at halftime and 11 with 1:12 left in regulation. Terquavion Smith was doing his thing and manufacturing points while Jarkel Joiner shook off some foul trouble for a solid game, Casey Morsell had made big baskets and center DJ Burns gave the Pack some needed scores late from the paint.
And then, in 25 seconds, the Wolfpack lead was 65-62 with 47 seconds remaining after the Hokies’ Darius Maddox went off — the 6-5 junior scoring a rapid-fire eight points, including two 3 pointers from the left wing, and the Hokies pressing and forcing turnovers by Morsell and Smith.
But Keatts used his timeouts. Joiner said everything was calm during the huddles — or calm enough. It was a matter of the players holding their poise and finishing out the game.
“It was a matter of staying level-headed,” Joiner said. “And go to the the free-throw line and make your free throws.”
Joiner hit five free throws and Greg Gantt a big one. Smith went to the line with six seconds left and the Pack leading 71-69 and nailed a pair to seal it.
The Pack could not do that at Miami, in a road game it led most of the way and could have won. But the Wolfpack finished Saturday against a Virginia Tech team that has lost close ACC games to Boston College, Wake Forest and then Clemson by a combined 10 points.
“We knew Virginia Tech was desperate,” Joiner said. “They’re a really good team and it’s a Quad-1 win for us. So we stole one on the road, man.
“It was a big one tonight. It would have been a long bus ride back with an ‘L.’ I’m glad we got the ‘W.’”
Smith (22 points), Joiner (21) and Morsell (15) were the leaders offensively for the Pack, but this road win was the product of solid defense and good rebounding. The Pack outrebounded the Hokies 38-29 and limited a good offensive rebounding team to six offensive boards.
Gantt, again in the starting lineup with injured Jack Clark missing another game, had nine rebounds and Joiner slipped inside to grab 8.
The Hokies (11-5, 1-4 ACC) again played without injured senior guard Hunter Cattoor. Sean Pedulla, a forceful sophomore guard, had 19 points, Maddox 16 and Lynn Kidd 14 but the Hokies got average games from Justyn Mutts, Grant Basile and MJ Collins.
The Pack led 13-2 before the Hokies could steady themselves, but N.C. State’s lead was 36-22 at the break. Then, the Hokies scored the first seven points of the second half.
“Coming out of the half I thought we were kind of laid back or too cool,” Smith said. “We need to put together two good halves.”
A Keatts timeout and a couple of baskets by Morsell stopped that Hokies run. The Pack had to really sweat it out at the end — and then, in ceremonial fashion, cooled off with some road-win ice cream.
This story was originally published January 7, 2023 9:40 PM.
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