RALEIGH, N.C. — Lorenzo Brown and No. 20 North Carolina State got hot just in time to keep rolling into the biggest game of the season.
Brown had 21 points and 10 assists, and helped the Wolfpack pull away late to beat Georgia Tech 83-70 on Wednesday night for their ninth consecutive win.
"I told him from the start that it looked like he was kind of having his way, and getting the things that he wanted," teammate Scott Wood said. "He just did a good job of being aggressive and taking advantage."
Wood added 20 points and C.J. Leslie had 19 in his 11th straight game in double figures for the Wolfpack (13-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The nation's most accurate shooting team shot 50.9 percent and needed a late surge to avoid entering its most heavily hyped game so far - a visit Saturday from top-ranked Duke - after a loss.
"I never heard (the Duke game) mentioned inside our practice facility, and when you've got four starters that return and have been through this league, I think they're seasoned enough to know you've got to play every night," coach Mark Gottfried said. "You can't look past anybody in this conference."
Daniel Miller had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Yellow Jackets (10-4, 0-2) controlled the tempo for the first 30 minutes and led 51-47 with 10 minutes to play but managed just three field goals in the final 7½ minutes and lost their second straight.
"We worked the ball more than they will," said Daniel Miller, who led Georgia Tech with 15 points and 10 rebounds. "They'll take a shot as soon as they think they're open. That limited them a little bit from getting those fast-break opportunities. I thought we did a good job for the most part."
Despite the final score, this one was tight for most of the way, with 11 ties and 14 lead changes. With Georgia Tech patiently in charge of the pace, neither team could assemble anything resembling a run and neither team led by more than four in the half until N.C. State got things rolling midway through.
"Down the stretch we executed our offense really well. We got the shots we wanted, the ball went where we needed it to go and we stepped up and made some shots, too," Gottfried said.
Wood hit two of his four 3-pointers during the burst - N.C. State improved to 14-0 under Gottfried when he hits at least four 3s - and his free throw made it 72-60 with 3:14 left.
"Any time you can close out games," Wood said, "that makes you that much more dangerous."
Mfon Udofia scored 13 points and Robert Carter Jr. added 12 points for Georgia Tech - which was playing its first game outside Atlanta since November. The Yellow Jackets fell to 0-2 in true road games and remained one victory shy of matching last season's win total.
NO. 11 FLORIDA 77, GEORGIA 44
In Gainesville, Fla., Mike Rosario scored 19 points, Erik Murphy added 11 despite playing with a broken rib and Florida opened Southeastern Conference play with a victory over Georgia.
The Gators improved to 12-5 in league openers under Donovan, including 7-0 at home. They also extended their recent dominance against the Bulldogs, winning for 16th time in the past 19 meetings.
The latest one was no big surprise since the Gators (11-2) have played well most of the season while Georgia (6-8) has struggled against just about everyone on its schedule.
The Bulldogs, though, had won four in a row after losing six of seven. Georgia turned the ball over 19 times and fell to 0-3 against ranked teams this season.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team’s lone bright spot, led the Bulldogs with 11 points.
Rosario made 6 of 10 shots from the field and all four from the free-throw line.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 56, SOUTH CAROLINA 54
In Starkville, Miss., Craig Sword scored 18 points, Roquez Johnson added 14 and Mississippi State (6-7) edged South Carolina (10-4) in the SEC opener for both teams.
Mississippi State first-year coach Rick Ray won his SEC debut. Sword was 6 of 11 from the field and had a dunk with 26 seconds left.
South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington and Brian Richardson both missed 3-pointers in the final seconds. The Gamecocks couldn’t overcome 24 turnovers. Richardson led South Carolina with 20 points.
The Gamecocks took a 50-44 lead with 5:25 remaining, but the Bulldogs responded with an 8-0 run that provided the momentum to get the win.