The Wolfpack host No. 12 Virginia Tech at PNC Arena in Raleigh, each team seeking to burnish its NCAA Tournament resume.
N.C. State (16-5, 4-4) came close to dumping Virginia, wiping out a 14-point second-half deficit and then missing on a chance to force a second overtime. Markell Johnson drew a three-shot foul in the final second, but missed the first foul shot and made the final two. The Cavaliers won 66-65.
"I told the team after the game it's OK to be disappointed," Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. "Certainly, I thought we fought our hearts out."
The result continued a win-lose pattern for N.C. State since the start of conference play. The loss also got a particularly tough part of the schedule off to a less-than-desirable beginning. After Saturday's game, N.C. State has a trip to ninth-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 5.
Devon Daniels, who scored 10 points for the Wolfpack against Virginia, said the team was close to turning the loss into a win.
"There's no moral victories," he said. "But that just tells us we're right there. If we can clean up a few things ... we can win the game."
While N.C. State was playing the what-if game, the Hokies (17-3, 6-2) had no such concerns Wednesday night in Miami. With sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker tying a season high with 25 points, Tech closed within a game of the conference lead by dusting Miami 82-70 in Coral Gables.
At this point, the Hokies are playing for a double bye in the conference tournament and a potential top four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The presence of Alexander-Walker, who added six steals, five assists and four rebounds while canning three 3-pointers, gives them a star who can get a bucket any time they need one.
"I think he is a really good player," Tech coach Buzz Williams said. "We are grateful that he's here. He's an unbelievable kid and is very important to our team. At times, I thought he played incredibly well tonight."
Alexander-Walker leads the Hokies with 17.9 points per game, hitting 54.1 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from the 3-point line. Point guard Justin Robinson adds 14.4 points and 5.5 assists, while Ahmed Hill (13.6 ppg) and post Kerry Blackshear Jr. (12.7) also score in double figures.
Virginia Tech is one of the top shooting teams in the country, hitting 42.6 of its 3-point shots and 50.2 percent of its shots overall. It also converts 76 percent of its foul shots and averages 17.1 assists per game.
The Wolfpack aren't quite as efficient offensively but score more points per game than the Hokies, ringing up 84.4 per game, which ranked 14th nationally through Thursday's games. Virginia Tech is averaging 78.8 points per game.
--Field Level Media
NC State held to historically bad 24 points
No. 23 NC State shoots 16.7 percent from the field against Virginia Tech, scoring the fewest points by a ranked team in the shot clock era.