In the end, the Wolfpack (11-4, 2-1) persevered and held off the Yellow Jackets (10-6, 0-3) for a 65-57 win, fueled by a career-high 25-point, seven rebound performance from guard Dominique Wilson.
It was N.C. State’s third straight win in as many games against Georgia Tech, and first over the Yellow Jackets in Raleigh since 2010.
“It was a good day,” Wilson said with a smile.
“I just told myself going into the game, just to be confident and don’t really worry about my shot going in.”
Following Wilson’s lead, guards Miah Spencer (14 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds) and Ashley Williams (10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) provided support from the free throw line and beyond the arc to earn the win.
“It feels good now,” Williams said about her 3-of-8 conversion rate beyond the arc coming off the bench.
“My aim looks good when it’s in my hands, so confidence-wise I’m okay.”
Aaliyah Whiteside’s game-high 31 points, along with nine rebounds was the largest catalyst Georgia Tech had offensively, but wasn’t supported enough to complement a dominating rebounding game.
While being outrebounded by a 43-32 margin, and committing 14 turnovers, N.C. State’s finish from the free throw line made the difference late in the game.
According to Georgia Tech head coach Machelle Joseph, the Wolfpack’s 18-of-23 completion rate in uncontested shots was a major factor in deciding the two teams’ 67th all-time meeting.
“II think we did a better job rebounding the basketball, but giving up 18 free throws is tough,” Joseph said.
“That’s tough to overcome on the road, especially when we only have one person that’s really scoring. Tonight, we just weren’t able to get it done.”
After falling behind 14-5 during the first six minutes of play, N.C. State put together an 8-3 run and trailed 17-13 at the end of the opening quarter led by Wilson’s eight points.
Spencer dropped a three during the first minute of the second and gave the Wolfpack an 18-17 advantage.
N.C. State had opportunities to extend its lead, but fell into shooting trouble from the perimeter, missing three consecutive three-point attempts and nullifying its tenacious defensive work in forcing Georgia Tech to turn the ball over.
Even with those misses, Spencer and Wilson kept the N.C. State offense churning to stay close and outscored Georgia Tech 13-11 during the quarter.
The Yellow Jackets eventually regained the upper hand with the help of Whiteside, and carried a modest 28-26 lead into the halftime break.
“It was a hard-fought game,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said.
“A physical game – give Georgia Tech credit – they really brought it. They had to start out in Louisville and Notre Dame, some tough games, and comin’ in here, we knew they would be extremely motivated. Great job on the offensive boards by them – that’s what’s amazing, that we were able to overcome that.”
Georgia Tech outscored N.C. State 24-2 in second chance points, but the Wolfpack’s transition game on the fast break earned them a 13-4 advantage accordingly.
Both teams battled throughout the third quarter as Whiteside and Spencer traded baskets early on amongst a number of turnovers and missed shots.
Williams and Georgia Tech’s Imani Tilford (4 points, 3 rebounds) supported their respective offenses as the lead bounced back and forth – a total of 15 times throughout.
Wilson’s layup and a three from forward Jennifer Mathurin (8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) put N.C. State ahead 47-42 heading into the final quarter of play.
Whiteside continued to carry the load and put Georgia Tech ahead 52-51 following an and-one sequence with 6:58 to play.
“I’m one of the seniors, and I have to lead the team,” Whiteside said.
“That’s my role.”
Tied 52-52 with 4:25 left, it was timely shot-making that would make the difference.
Mathurin’s three put the Wolfpack ahead again a minute later.
After Georgia Tech failed to convert on its possession, Wilson’s drive to the hoop was good and extended N.C. State’s lead to 58-52 with 2:43 to play.
While the Yellow Jackets quickly pulled back to within three, the Wolfpack continued its work at the free throw line.
Even while consecutive free throw misses by Chelsea Nelson (6 points, 4 rebounds) provided Georgia Tech some hope to pull closer, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t convert on the easy shot and layup opportunities they had.
A free throw from Whiteside cut the Wolfpack lead to three, 59-56, with 36.4 seconds to go.
However, Spencer matched that and raised it with another.
Another missed Georgia Tech field goal attempt from the perimeter allowed Wilson to grab the rebound and to subsequently drop a few more free throws.
She finished a perfect 9-of-9 performance from that spot.
Both teams continued to trade fouls and attempts from the line, and Spencer iced the game and scored the two final baskets of the game.
“Excited to hold serve here at home for a couple of games,” Moore said.
“Now go on the road and see if we can validate it with somethin’ there.”