Nothing will be easy this season for N.C. State. The Wolfpack already knew that but that point was reiterated in the ACC opener.
Virginia Tech, last-place a season ago and with its own problems outside the league this season, came back from 14 points down in the second half to beat N.C. State 73-68 in overtime on Saturday.
Guards Jalen Hudson and Seth Allen each scored 23 points for the Hokies (9-5, 1-0) who lost to Alabama State on the same floor to open the season and was two days removed from a 25-point home loss to West Virginia.
N.C. State (10-4, 0-1), which got up by as many as 16 points in the first half and was up 14 early in the second half, looked like it was on its way to a 1-0 ACC start.
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But its missed free throws and 3-pointers started to pile up, and so did Virginia Tech’s offensive rebounds.
“We are our own worst enemy,” said N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried, who lost for the first time in six games against the Hokies.
“When you have a lead and you can’t make a foul shot or or you can’t get a defensive rebound, they really end up becoming magnified.”
N.C. State went 5 of 12 from the foul line in overtime while freshman forward Kerry Blackshear had six of his nine points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points.
Blackshear’s three-point play at 2:07 in overtime gave the Hokies a 67-66 lead. N.C. State freshman guard Maverick Rowan went 1 of 2 from the foul line on N.C. State’s next possession and then Blackshear added another basket for a 69-67 lead. The Hokies, who went 2-16 in ACC play last year, never looked back.
Pedigree or recent success don’t seem to be factors in what is already a wacky college basketball season.
“The ACC games are all going to be hard,” said junior guard Cat Barber, who led N.C. State with 21 points. “It was just one of those nights for us where it didn’t go our way.”
That was certainly the case from the 3-point line. The Wolfpack made three of its first five 3-point shots and then only two of its last 18, including only one after halftime.
Sophomore wing Caleb Martin (14 points) hit a three at the 15:50 mark in the second half to give N.C. State a 43-29 lead. If only the game could have stopped there.
“We had to keep playing,” Gottfried said.
Allen and Hudson, who had 19 points after halftime, certainly did. A block by Virginia Tech forward Zach LeDay sprung Allen for a dunk to cap a 13-4 run and give the Hokies a 52-51 lead at 4:20 in the second half.
The teams went back and forth from there with each side taking a late 3-point advantage. The Hokies led 56-53 when Justin Bibbs fouled Rowan on a 3-point attempt at 2:10 in the second half. Rowan made all three free throws to tie the game at 56.
N.C. State led 61-58 with 33.6 seconds left in regulation after a free throw by BeeJay Anya but Allen was able to get loose, after a screen by Bibbs, for a game-tying three with 17.9 second left in regulation.
Gottfried said he thought Bibbs got away with an illegal screen on Allen’s game-tying basket.
“That’s one right there that probably could have changed the outcome of the game,” Gottfried said.
The Wolfpack had the ball last in regulation but forward Shane Henry blocked Barber’s layup attempt at the rim as the clock ran out.
His quibble with the late no-call aside, Gottfried tried to stay positive, if not a bit philosophical, after a less-than-ideal ACC start.
“Even if you win what we all sometimes think is a bigger game, it’s still only one win or win loss,” Gottfried said. “You have to move on.”