- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - New Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner likes telling the story of school officials warning him that he might not win an Atlantic Coast Conference game in the first year of a big rebuilding project.

So much for that.

Freshman Josh Okogie scored 27 points to help Georgia Tech beat North Carolina State 86-76 on Sunday night for the Yellow Jackets’ third ACC win in a surprising start.

“The margin for error is zero for us and we have to take it one possession at a time,” said Pastner, who spent the past seven seasons at Memphis. “But right now at this current state, we have gotten a lot better.”

Quinton Stephens matched his career high with 22 points for the Yellow Jackets (11-6, 3-2 ACC), who came in ranked last in the league in scoring, shooting percentage and 3-point percentage. But Georgia Tech shot 49 percent and made 10 of 16 3-pointers (63 percent).

Georgia Tech took control with an 11-0 run midway through the second half, putting the Wolfpack (12-6, 1-4) in catch-up mode the rest of the night.

Okogie made 10 of 18 shots and all three of his 3-point attempts, while Stephens finished with six rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes.

“(Pastner) is really emphasizing taking open shots and being aggressive,” Stephens said. “We’ve really emphasized being aggressive with the last game, the game before that and this game. And I think it shows. Our guys can play and we’re playing with confidence.”

Freshman Dennis Smith Jr. had 31 points for N.C. State, which shot 41 percent. But coach Mark Gottfried was seething about his team’s defensive play during a blunt postgame news conference.

“Our team better learn how to get a little tougher, bottom line,” Gottfried said. “Better to get a little mentally tougher and we better make a decision at some point whether we’re going to guard anybody. It’s real simple. … I can talk about it for two hours every day in practice. At some point, they better make a decision, because right now, we struggle to guard anybody - and it’s frustrating.”

BIG PICTURE

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets stand at 3-2 in the ACC for the first time since the 2009-10 season. They already have an upset of then-No. 9 North Carolina at home and a home win against Clemson.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Pastner said. “We’re in the type of situation with the schedule in front of you in this league, you can lose 10, 12, 13 in a row.”

N.C. State: It’s been a rough week for the Wolfpack, starting with last weekend’s 51-point loss at rival North Carolina. Then came a loss at Boston College, picked to finish last in the league in the preseason. But this one came at home in a year when league road teams have struggled, and it came against the team picked to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC - hardly the outcome one would expect for a possible NCAA Tournament team.

“It’s definitely a game we should’ve won,” Wolfpack guard Terry Henderson said. “So we just add that game to the list of other games we should’ve won.”

TIP-INS

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets took a 42-35 rebounding advantage. … Georgia Tech had 24 assists on 31 baskets with just 11 turnovers. … Ben Lammers had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

N.C. State: Maverick Rowan scored 17 points. … N.C. State made 10 of 25 3-pointers (40 percent). … Smith also had eight rebounds and six assists.

UP NEXT

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets continue a three-game road trip with Wednesday’s visit to Virginia Tech.

N.C. State: N.C. State gets a quick turnaround by hosting Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

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