ATLANTA - Markeisha Gatling converts a higher percentage of attempted shots than any other womens college basketball player in the country, so it might’ve seemed strange to see the N.C. State senior scoreless and without an attempted shot through 20 minutes of Sunday’s game against Georgia Tech.
Gatling was more herself in the second half.
Gatling scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the final 20 minutes and four of her teammates were also in double figures in the Associated Press No. 23 Wolfpack’s 80-73 victory at McCamish Pavilion.
Tyaunna Marshall (game-high 23 points and seven assists) picked up a steal and fed Aaliyah Whiteside for a lay up to give Tech a 49-46 lead, its largest cushion of the game, with 16:26 to play in the second half.
N.C. State followed with a 17-6 spurt - eight of the points coming from Gatling - and the Wolfpack held a 63-55 advantage with just over eight minutes to play.
The lead wouldn’t fall below six points the rest of the way as Tech fell to 0-6 against ranked teams.
“I thought that we competed hard on both ends of the floor, but I felt like we got beat by a more experienced team that executed more than we did when it mattered,” said Tech coach MaChelle Joseph.
“I’m just really proud of our kids today,” said first-year N.C. State coach Wes Moore. “Good team win, found a way to get it done.”
N.C. State came into the game hitting an ACC-best eight 3-pointers per game, and the Wolfpack matched that total by halftime.
Myisha Goodwin-Coleman hit four 3-pointers within the first nine minutes of the game and Kody Burke added two more in helping the visitors build a 26-16 cushion at the 10:24 mark.
Before that, Tech had gotten to within 23-16 on Dawnn Maye’s three-point play. But N.C. State scored the next seven points, and a steal and lay up from Lakeesa Daniel made it a 30-16 game and forced a Yellow Jackets time out.
Marshall had just three points before the ACC’s third-leading scorer got going and led Tech back into the game.
A pair of Marshall baskets 22 seconds apart and later, including a put back made it a 33-25 game with seven minutes until halftime.
Tech’s post players got involved after that as Roddreka Rogers and Shayla Bivins each had a basket close. Marshall, who finished the opening half with 14 points, and Whiteside added lay ups during Tech’s 13-3 spurt that cut the deficit to 36-33 with three and a half minutes to go in the half.
The Wolfpack hit 58 percent of their first-half shots, but most of that came within the first 12 minutes. After Len’Nique Brown’s 3-pointer at the 7:45 mark, the visitors from Raleigh didn’t make another field goal until Krystal Barrett hit the last of State’s eight first-half threes, part of an 11-point game for Barrett, to make it 42-37 with 34 seconds to play.
Gatling picked up two fouls 29 seconds apart in the early stages of the game and played just four minutes in the opening half. The Wolfpack still held a 42-39 advantage at the break.
“‘Keisha’s where we start, we want to go inside-out. With her in foul trouble it changed the first half. It really did change the game,” said N.C. State coach Wes Moore.
“I was a little concerned at halftime we’re trailing and (Gatling) hasn’t played,” Joseph said.
Tech scored the first basket of the game - a lay up from Kaela Davis - but Davis, the conference’s sixth-leading scorer, didn’t score again the remainder of the half and N.C. State picked up the next 10 points and didn’t trail again until the 17:44 mark of the second half.
Brown led the Wolfpack with 17 points, Goodwin-Coleman added 16 and Kody Burke had 14. Nariah Taylor was the only other Tech player in double figures as the sophomore center came off the bench to score 12 points.