Richard Howell scored 18 points — all in the first half — and North Carolina State continued its late-season surge in the ACC by beating Georgia Tech 70-57 on Sunday.
With Howell contained in the second half, C.J. Leslie scored 11 of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes as N.C. State (21-8, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) took its fifth win in its last six games. T.J. Warren had 14 points.
With the win, N.C. State moved into a tie with fourth-place Virginia in the race for one of four first-round byes in the ACC tournament. Boston College beat Virginia 53-52 on Sunday.
N.C. State led by 14 in the first half. Georgia Tech (15-13, 5-11) fought back to cut the deficit to one point late in the first half and again early in the second half, but the Yellow Jackets couldn't complete the comeback.
Georgia Tech had no player in double figures. Senior Mfon Udofia had nine points in his final regular-season home game. Robert Carter Jr. had eight points before fouling out with 1:12 remaining. Daniel Miller also had eight points.
Georgia Tech had no answer for Howell in the first half. The senior scored the Wolfpack's first points on a follow shot, setting the pace for his role as go-to scorer. Howell had 10 of N.C. State's first 12 points and had back-to-back baskets to start a 12-0 run for a 20-10 lead.
Leslie's driving scoop gave N.C. State its biggest lead at 28-14.
Georgia Tech answered with a 16-4 run that included 3-pointers by Brandon Reed and Chris Bolden. Udofia's 3-pointer cut the Wolfpack's lead to one point at 34-33 before Warren's layup gave N.C. State a 36-33 halftime advantage.
With Kammeon Holsey drawing the primary defensive assignment on Howell in the second half, the Wolfpack struggled to keep the lead. Holsey had help from another defender when Howell had the ball near the basket, and the N.C. State junior had no points and only two field goal attempts in the second half.
Georgia Tech cut N.C. State's lead to 51-49 on a follow-up shot by Marcus Georges-Hunt with 7 minutes remaining. Leslie answered with a three-point play on Carter's fourth foul. A driving layup by Lorenzo Brown and two free throws by Rodney Purvis completed a 7-0 run that pushed the lead back to nine points at 58-49.
Leslie's jumper gave N.C. State a 61-51 lead.
Tyler Lewis made five free throws in the final minute to protect the lead.