The 3-point line hasn’t been particularly kind to Georgia Tech this season. That was before the Yellow Jackets visited N.C. State on Sunday.
Freshman guard Josh Okogie and senior forward Quinton Stephens unexpectedly got hot from 3 and helped the underdog Jackets hand N.C. State an 86-76 loss.
Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored a season-best 31 points and did his best help the Wolfpack (12-6, 1-4 ACC) avoid a third straight ACC loss. The Wolfpack just couldn’t withstand the blistering outside shooting by the Jackets, who finished 10-of-16 from behind the 3-point line.
Okogie scored 27 points and made all three of his 3-pointers. Stephens added 22 points and was 4-of-8 from the 3-point line. Georgia Tech (11-6, 3-2) went into the game ranked last in the ACC in in 3-pointers made (61) and percentage (32.4). Stephens, who has a reliable outside stroke, was actually only 4-of-17 in ACC play before Sunday’s outburst.
The Yellow Jackets took control early in the second half with a 12-4 run fueled by Stephens. Stephens scored seven points in a 4-minute span as the Jackets went from down 43-42 to up 54-47 at 14:46 after a wheeling layup by senior guard Corey Heyward.
Smith was able to keep the Wolfpack in shouting distance with a series of pullup jumpers. His steal in transition, and assist to sophomore guard Maverick Rowan at 11:55, cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 56-53.
But an 11-0 run, starting at the 10:56 mark, by the Jackets put the game out of reach. A jumper by forward Ben Lammers at 8:21 gave the Jackets a 69-56 lead.
N.C. State got as close as six points, 82-76, after a 3 by Smith with 42.8 seconds left, but Okogie made a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left to avoid any further drama.
Both sides were hot from the 3-point line in the first half. Georgia Tech was 7-of-13 from the 3-point line while five of N.C. State’s first six field goals were from 3 in the first 7 minutes of the game.
The Wolfpack finished the half 6-of-14 from the arc with Smith accounting for half. Smith had 20 points by the break thanks to a 7-of-8 effort from the foul line.
Smith’s three-point play with 57.2 seconds left in the half gave N.C. State a 41-36 lead but the Jackets buried two 3s before the break.
Okogie made a 3 from the right corner, after an offensive rebound by guard Josh Heath kept the possession alive, and Stephens made a 3 with 10.3 seconds left to give the Jackets a 42-41 lead at the half.
Since a 104-78 home win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, N.C. State has lost at UNC by 51 points, at Boston College and to Georgia Tech. The Eagles and Jackets were picked in the preseason to finish as the bottom two teams in the ACC.