NC State jumped out to an early lead, built as much as a 19-point advantage and then held on down the stretch to defeat Virginia Tech 73-63 Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
Playing without one-time starter Brandon Costner, who was out with a rib injury, the Wolfpack clicked from the opening tap and never trailed for its second consecutive victory.
That’s not to say things didn’t get interesting at the end, when the Hokies cut a double-digit lead to just five points in the final 70 seconds, but Sidney Lowe’s team held on to even its Atlantic Coast Conference record.
The Wolfpack (15-7 overall, 4-4 ACC) now heads to College Park, Md., Maryland for an 8 p.m. Saturday game at the Comcast Center against Maryland.
Costner, who sat on the bench in street clothes throughout the game, did not participate because of bruised ribs he suffered in practice the day before. Costner had X-rays Monday afternoon, but they came back negative.
Freshman J.J. Hickson led the Wolfpack with 21 points, 13 of which came from the free throw line. Junior Courtney Fells added 14 for the Pack, while freshman Javi Gonzalez had a career-high 11 and senior Gavin Grant added 11.
For the Hokies, four players finished in double-figures, led by freshman Jeff Allen with 15 points.
The Wolfpack led from the outset, after Virginia Tech missed two early layups. The Pack scored the game’s first six points and never looked back.
When Dennis Horner nailed a 3-pointer with 12:19 remaining in the first half, the Wolfapck’s lead was 13-2, forcing Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg to call time out. The Hokies finally scored their second basket of the game, a layup by A.D. Vassallo with 11:52 remaining before intermission, but Fells answered with the Pack’s second 3-pointer of the night.
Less than six minutes before the half, the Wolfpack took its biggest lead of the game, 27-8, when Gavin Grant picked up a loose ball in the backcourt and jammed home a thunderous dunk. The Pack led 37-24 at intermission.
Freshman Javi Gonzalez, making his first start in a month, played well his best all-around game of the season, hitting double-figures for the first time in his college career and finishing the game with 11 points.
The Hokies managed to trim the lead to five with 1:10 remaining on a Vassallo layup, but the Wolfpack made its free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
After back-to-back road games at Maryland and Boston College, the Wolfpack returns home on Feb. 16 to face Clemson in a 3 p.m. contest at the RBC Center.