Jan. 14, 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Cameron Bennerman had 16 points and four of his teammates added 14 to help No. 18 North Carolina State pull away for an 87-78 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday that gave the Wolfpack their best start since the Jim Valvano era.
Engin Atsur, Tony Bethel, Cedric Simmons and reserve Andrew Brackman all came up two points shy of Bennerman’s total, and Ilian Evtimov finished with 13 points for N.C. State (14-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Of course, that’s nothing new for one of the most balanced teams in the country, which has seven players averaging eight points or more.
The Wolfpack last won 14 of their first 16 games in 1988-89, when Valvano led them to East Regional semifinals. To match that run, this year’s team dominated down the stretch to beat the Yellow Jackets (9-5, 2-1) for the seventh straight time.
It gave the largest crowd of the season at the RBC Center (19,286) plenty to cheer about, and a loss just down the road by No. 20 North Carolina brought even more applause when it was announced.
Jeremis Smith had 20 points for Georgia Tech, which had a four-game winning streak snapped.
A 3-pointer from Lewis Clinch gave the Yellow Jackets their final lead at 61-60 with about 8 minutes left. Simmons responded on the other end with a dunk off a nice assist from Bethel to put N.C. State ahead for good. Astur and Bethel added 3s in quick succession to make it 68-61, and Georgia Tech could get only as close as six points the rest of the way.
The 6-foot-9 Simmons fought foul trouble in the first half – he picked up his second with about 7 minutes left – and played only 11 minutes. His absence allowed the Yellow Jackets to shred the ACC’s best defense.
The Wolfpack came in allowing opponents to shoot only 37 percent but watched Georgia Tech stay near double that mark for most of the first half. The Yellow Jackets finished at 68 percent to lead 41-40, all without much help from leading scorer Anthony Morrow.
He made his only shot and had three points before finally getting some open looks in the second half to finish with 15 points.
The Wolfpack appeared to take control soon after halftime with a 13-2 run capped by Evtimov’s layup on an assist from Atsur. Just as quickly, Georgia Tech stormed back to regain the lead with 11 straight points, including 3-pointers from Morrow and Zam Frederick.
From there, there were four more lead changes and another tie before N.C. State began to pull away.
Clinch matched a season high with 14 points for the Yellow Jackets, and Ra’Sean Dickey scored 12.