RALEIGH, N.C. – Diamond Johnson scored 12 points and fifth-ranked North Carolina State build a big lead in the third quarter to beat No. 11 Georgia Tech 59-48 on Monday night.
Raina Perez added 11 points for the Wolfpack, who turned a marquee matchup of top Atlantic Coast Conference teams into a largely one-sided show. Most importantly, N.C. State (21-3, 12-1) made things difficult on the Yellow Jackets defensively through the middle of the game, which has been an area coach Wes Moore has been pushing for a team with Final Four aspirations.
Eylia Love scored 16 points to lead Georgia Tech (18-5, 9-3), which shot 35% and had a long stretch that saw the Yellow Jackets miss 24 of 29 shots to turn a fast start into a massive hole.
The Yellow Jackets had more turnovers (four) than field goals (3 for 17) in the second quarter, then opened the third quarter with four misses and six more turnovers through the first 6 minutes.
The Wolfpack offense had few such troubles when the game was in doubt, even against a defense ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring (47.1 points allowed and No. 3 in field-goal percentage defense (.328). N.C. State shot 49% through the first three quarters, led by as many as 23 and led by 21 with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter before Georgia Tech made a late run to make it closer.
N.C. State led 30-22 at halftime, then scored the first 10 points after the break – finally getting Elissa Cunane going in the post for three baskets followed by Perez’s turnaround and baseline drive that pushed the lead to 40-22 midway through the third quarter.
N.C. State wore pink uniforms for the 16th annual Play4Kay Game, continuing a tradition started in honor of late Wolfpack coach Kay Yow to use a home game to raise awareness and money for the fund named in her honor to fight women’s cancers.
The halftime ceremony honoring cancer fighters and survivors included Georgia Tech associate head coach Tasha Butts, who was diagnosed earlier this season with advanced-stage breast cancer.
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech entered a game back in the loss column of No. 3 Louisville and N.C. State at the top of the ACC standings, so this represented a chance to close the gap even with a loss to the Cardinals in the only regular-season meeting between the two. But aside from making 5 of 7 shots for a 10-2 lead, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t get stops while their offense was scrapping for any basket during the game’s critical sequences.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack’s stumble at No. 18 Notre Dame last week opened up the league regular-season race a bit, with N.C. State and Louisville each sitting with one loss and the Wolfpack owning the tiebreaker with a Jan. 20 comeback win in the lone regular-season meeting. This was a significant hurdle for the Wolfpack in pursuing the program’s first ACC regular-season crown since the 1989-90 season, with Georgia Tech standing as the last ranked team on the schedule.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets visit Virginia Tech on Thursday.
N.C. State: Two road games await, first at Boston College on Thursday and then at nearby Duke on Sunday.