NC State wasn't completely comfortable in a win against the worst team in the ACC, but the Wolfpack kept Virginia Tech at arm's length before opening up a major lead in a 80-63 win Thursday in the ACC Tournament first round.
Virginia Tech just didn't have an answer for Richard Howell. The ACC first-teamer powered past scant interior defense from Virginia Tech to finish with 22 points on 11-of-13 shooting, while adding 12 rebounds. Lorenzo Brown chipped in 12 assists.
Erick Green is typically the only thing worth keeping Virginia Tech in games, as he averaged 25.4 points per game to lead the nation in scoring, and he was there with three first-half threes. After that, the ACC Player of the Year struggled. He got looks he normally makes, but he just couldn't connect, finishing 5-of-19 for just 13 points. The guard got a nice round of applause when he was substituted out of his final collegiate game with under a minute to go. With Green struggling, Jarell Eddie was forced to be the go-to guy for Virginia Tech, finishing with 21 points.
The Wolfpack scored the first six points of the game, but Virginia Tech came back with seven in a row. Although, Howell managed 14 in the first half thanks to six assists from Brown.
In the second half, NC State was finally able to break away with an 11-0 run that put the Wolfpack up 17 points. The lead would be cut to ten on several occasions, but it was never again close. NC State's advantage increased to as much as 21, and Rodney Purvis capped the game with a monster dunk over two Virginia Tech defenders.
NC State moves on to play fourth-seeded Virginia in the quarterfinals Friday.