RALEIGH -- N.C. State entered Tuesday's game against Northwestern unbeaten on the season and unbeaten at home in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Both short-lived streaks are history after the Wolfpack's 65-53 loss to the Wildcats at the RBC Center.
A perennial Big Ten doormat, Northwestern's off to a 6-1 start with wins over Big East (Notre Dame), Big 12 (Iowa State) and ACC teams. Guard Michael Thompson scored 22 points and led an active zone which held the Wolfpack to 11.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.
State (5-1) started cold, hitting just three of its first 17 shots and fell behind by 10 at the half, and stayed that way, trailing by double-digits for most of the second half as the Wildcats, and their methodical Princeton offense and 1-3-1 zone, controlled the game's tempo.
Forward Tracy Smith (23 points) and point guard Javier Gonzalez (10 points, six assists) and tried to keep State perfect on the young season, and at home in the made-for-ESPN Challenge, but had little help. State had won its first five games of the season and four home games in the Challenge
Senior Dennis Horner, the team's second-leading scorer, was held to 11 points. Freshman Scott Wood, the team's designated zone buster, missed all six of his 3-pointers and did not score.
A wild sequence, started by a technical foul on Northwestern guard Alex Marcotullio at 9:42, briefly gave the Wolfpack hope, cutting the deficit to four points.
Marcotullio got tangled with Gonzalez, which led to two technical free throws for Horner. On the same possession, Gonzalez hit a behind-the-back pass to Smith under the basket for a layup.
Smith missed the accompanying free throw but a Horner steal sprung Smith a for a breakaway dunk at 8:55 and a 47-43 score.
Marcotullio responded by hitting a 3 from the left corner to push Northwestern's margin back seven points.
Horner's free throw at 3:48 ended a streak of 10 straight points by Smith, who was dominant in the second half.
Down 57-50, State had a chance to cut into Northwestern's lead on two straight trips but Wood and Gonzalez missed back-to-back 3s.
Then Thompson's three-point play at 1:35 effectively ended any hope of a Wolfpack comeback.