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N.C. State Helps NCAA Tourney Hopes, Defeats Georgia Tech 71-65

Posted March 14, 2003

— Josh Powell had 18 points, and Scooter Sherrill and Marcus Melvin added 15 each as North Carolina State helped its NCAA Tournament hopes by beating Georgia Tech 71-65 in the ACC Tournament Friday.

"We were able to maintain a poise, even though we all probably had some butterflies in our stomachs," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "This was really important to us, yet we were able to temper that with a peace that allowed us to maintain composure."

Sendek improved to 6-1 in opening tourney games as the fourth-seeded Wolfpack (17-11) advanced to the ACC semifinals for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

"Many teams get knocked out in the first round in tournaments; you've seen it across the nation," said senior point guard Clifford Crawford. "But our guys really focus on these first games.

"You can't play in the championship game if you don't win the first game of the tournament."

N.C. State will play No. 1 seed Wake Forest (24-4) Saturday. The ninth-ranked Demon Deacons beat Florida State 69-61 in the opening quarterfinal game and swept the Wolfpack twice during the regular season.

Many NCAA Tournament bracket experts believed N.C. State needed to at least beat the Yellow Jackets to be invited as an at-large team to the field of 65.

"Every game we've had for the last two weeks has been like a must-win game," Julius Hodge said. "We knew if we wanted to have any kind of great postseason chances, we would have to win - and we got it done. We really played with urgency."

Meanwhile, the fifth-seeded Yellow Jackets (14-14) dropped six of eight since a 90-84 upset of Maryland on Feb. 9. Chris Bosh led the way with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

"I haven't found what button I have to push to get us over the hump," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.

The Wolfpack, in a month-long shooting slump beyond the arc, was money from there Friday, making 11-of-21 while shooting 50 percent from the field.

"You've got to get our on their shooters, and we didn't do that," Georgia Tech's Jarrett Jack said. "Those 3s they hit were backbreakers."

Powell added eight rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots for the Wolfpack.

"Josh has been a growing man, but he grew up a little bit extra today," Sherrill said. "I could see before the game he was so focused, that he wanted to take on this challenge against Chris Bosh."

Sherrill scored a combined 14 points in two meetings with Georgia Tech this season. But he was on his outside game this time, making five of his first seven shots from three-point range.

Still, N.C. State trailed 56-51 with 8:35 left and was getting beat up on the inside before taking the lead with a 9-0 run. Melvin sank a three-pointer and a 12-footer, while Powell added a layup.

The Yellow Jackets closed to 62-60 with 3:49 left. But Melvin sank a three-pointer and added two key free throws with 36.7 seconds left that put the Wolfpack up 67-60.

"This game was like the story of our season," Georgia Tech's B.J. Elder said. "It was a missed opportunity. We were up by five, and we were in a position to put them away, and for whatever reason, we didn't do it.

"They didn't do anything we couldn't handle. This was all on us."

Georgia Tech didn't help its cause by missing 12 of its first 14 shots to fall into an early hole.

The Yellow Jackets stayed within a basket or two before the Wolfpack closed the half on an 11-4 run as Sherrill and Crawford sank three-pointers. Crawford's came at the halftime buzzer for a 34-25 N.C. State lead.

Powell, who has played well over the last month of the season, had his best half of the year, scoring 11 points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking four shots. The 6-9 center set the tone early with two rejections in the opening 4:47.

"I was determined because now, from here on, my teammates are going to count on me to do a lot of things - and it's March, it's tournament time, so you have to step things up," Powell said.

N.C. State could have led by more at halftime but was just two-for-seven from the foul line. That's uncharacteristic of the Wolfpack, who came in having made 90 of its last 102 and whose 77.4 percent mark is the best from the line in the ACC since North Carolina shot 78.3 percent in 1984.

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