Trevor Lacey’s last-second shot beat Georgia Tech in overtime Saturday and looked like it breathed new life into N.C. State’s season.
Will Lacey’s buzzer-beater be worth more than three points and one ACC road win?
“We’ll see,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said Monday.
N.C. State (14-9, 5-5) hopes to build on its road win with another, Tuesday night at Wake Forest (10-12, 2-7) before an extended break.
The value of Lacey’s game-winner for the 81-80 win against the Yellow Jackets will only be as significant as N.C. State’s next move. The Wolfpack has been up and down during ACC play.
Its penchant for wild swings, often within the same game, led to the following philosophical offering from Gottfried:
“Sometimes you feel like you are walking into the wind. Sometimes you feel like you have the wind at your back,” he said.
“It’s just the way momentum is in sports.”
Momentum has been fickle for the Wolfpack. N.C. State led Notre Dame by 18 points Jan. 25 before losing 81-78 in overtime. The next game, the Wolfpack trailed Clemson by 23 points in the first half, cut the Tigers’ lead to three in the second half but lost 68-57 on Jan. 28.
N.C. State jumped to a 14-point lead at Georgia Tech on Saturday then fell behind by six points in the second half before winning in overtime.
Throw in Lacey’s shot against Wofford during a 55-54 loss Dec. 14, which was nearly identical to his shot against Georgia Tech but came a millisecond after the buzzer, or the missed tipped shot by Cody Martin at the end of an 81-79 home loss to North Carolina on Jan. 14 and N.C. State already has had a season’s worth of drama.
Gottfried said he hopes the way N.C. State won will help his team build confidence for the last month of the regular season.
“When you have a game finish like the way that we did, there’s a lot of positives to build on,” Gottfried said.
Among them, the play of sophomore guard Cat Barber. Gottfried challenged Barber before the Georgia Tech game to do more, especially in the assist department, and Barber responded with seven assists and one turnover.
He also scored a team-high 23 points and made four 3-pointers. Barber made three 3s in the season opener, then went 2-of-15 in the 21 games before Saturday.
Gottfried was impressed with Barber’s decision-making and aggressiveness. He said he thought it was Barber’s best game in a Wolfpack uniform.
“I really liked the the seven assists with one turnover and he might not get that every night or get 23 points, but my message with Cat right now is to cut it loose,” Gottfried said. “I think he has played somewhat close the vest.”
N.C. State hasn’t won back-to-back games since it followed its 78-65 home win against Wake Forest on Dec. 6 with an 86-50 win against Charleston Southern on Dec. 12.
Gottfried said the Deacons, who beat Virginia Tech 73-70 Saturday, are a different team from the one that lost in Raleigh.
“They’ve gotten a lot better,” Gottfried said.
That might not show up in Wake Forest’s 2-7 ACC record, but the Deacs lost two of those games in overtime and another at Clemson by two points.
Gottfried is hoping his team can put together a complete game and take some momentum into the second half of the ACC schedule. After Tuesday’s game, the Wolfpack won’t play again until Feb. 11 at home against No. 3 Virginia.
“If we can play well Tuesday, then you’ve got a nice break after that to get geared up for a late-season charge hopefully,” Gottfried said.