RALEIGH – NC State and Virginia Tech fought tooth and nail for most of their Saturday afternoon tilt at PNC Arena.
The Hokies, though, had just enough juice down the stretch to gain separation and the 84-78 win.
Virginia Tech outscored the Pack 35-29 in the final 9:41 after the game was tied at 49. NC State’s biggest lead was three (54-51) in the last eight minutes.
The Pack (13-5, 5-2) had one last push in them, going on an 8-0 run to put within six with 1:37 to go. The Hokies (11-7, 3-4) answered with two free throws on the other end, but Casey Morsell was fouled attempting a three with 59.2 remaining.
Morsell hit all three to make it a two possession game, but the Pack gave up a layup to Robbie Beran to seal the deal.
It was the first road win for Virginia Tech, who hit their last nine shots from the field.
The Hokies had five players score in double figures, led by Hunter Cattoor who scored 16 of his 19 after the break. Morsell led NC State with 19 points in 38 minutes. He was one of three Pack players in double figures. Scoring wasn’t the issue for the team, head coach Kevin Keatts said that 78 points were enough to win, but State’s inability to get any stops late is what ultimately did them in.
“Those guys drove us, they made big plays when they needed to,” Keatts told the media after the game. “I thought our defense in the second half was not very good. Guys were able to get to the rim on us and it’s just not good enough.”
Virginia Tech shot 62.5% from the field in the second half and scored 51 points.
“I didn’t think we were as aggressive as we were in the first half,” Keatts said about his defense. “When it looked like we had a chance to lose the game we ramped it up. I thought early in the second half we just let those guys get comfortable and once they got comfortable they started playing really good basketball.”
It was just the second time this season the Pack gave up 50 or more points in the second half of a game. Both times resulted in a loss. The Hokies also shot 47% from three-point range.
“That’s way too many points to win at this level,” Morsell said. “That’s pretty much it, we couldn’t stop them.”
With neither team able to get any separation, Virginia Tech finally found a spark around the five minute mark. The Hokies scored five in a row to make it a six-point game. NC State big man DJ Burns (8 points) countered with two free throws, but Virginia Tech responded with three straight baskets, two in a row by Cattoor to take control.
“We have to figure out how to slow teams down,” Morsell said.
One bright spot for the Pack was the three-point shooting. They hit six 3s after going 0-8 against Wake Forest.
“We just talked about staying the course,” Keatts said. “We got in the gym, we shot. This teams probably, realistically, a 6-7 three-point make team per game.”
It was just the second home loss this season for NC State, who will now hit the road for two straight contests. The Pack travel to Virginia on Wednesday and Syracuse on Saturday.