It took one of their best defensive efforts of the season for N.C. State to end its seven-game losing streak.
The Wolfpack shut down Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers to beat the Yellow Jackets 71-69 at McCamish Pavilion on Tuesday night.
“Defensively it was probably one of the better games we’ve played,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. “We did a much better job defending them tonight.”
The interior defense was especially effective. Abdul-Malik Abu and freshman Ted Kapita were able to keep Lammers away from the basket and limit his effectiveness.
“I don’t know that it was anything special,” Gottfried said. “Malik and Ted just tag-teammed him a little, tried to keep a fresh body on him. … And not letting him get second shots, if he missed a shot tipping it in. We did a good job limiting second-shot points.”
Lammers, who entered the game averaging 15 points and had 23 against Syracuse on Sunday, scored only one point in the first half and finished with six. He was 1-for-9 from the floor and didn’t get his first basket until 43 seconds left in the game.
“Ben Lammers has carried us all year and if he’s not good, it’s awfully hard for us,” Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “He was not good tonight. That’s about as truthful as I can be.”
The Wolfpack (15-14, 4-12 ACC) got 21 points from Terry Henderson and 18 points from Dennis Smith Jr. Abu had 10 rebounds and played with four fouls for most of the second half.
Georgia Tech (16-12, 7-8) was led by freshman Josh Okogie with 25 points and four rebounds, Tadric Jackson with 17 points and Quinton Stephens with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Georgia Tech had only four 3-pointers on Tuesday; they Yellow Jackets made 10 when they beat the Wolfpack in Raleigh on Jan. 15.
“They never got going from the 3-point line,” Gottfried said. “Our matchups were much better tonight.”
Things began to look good for the Wolfpack with 12:56 left. Markell Johnson drew a flagrant foul on a drive to the basket and made both free throws for a 48-39 lead.
The Wolfpack appeared to have the game put away with a late 12-2 run capped by Maverick Rowan’s 3-pointer with 3:09 left that gave them a 14-point lead. But Georgia Tech battled back and drew within 70-69 on a 3-pointer by Jackson with four seconds left.
The Yellow Jackets, after Smith made one of two free throws, missed a chance at the win when Jackson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
The win closed an atypical week for the program, which saw Gottfried fired last week.
“It’s been a turbulent week for them,” he said. “They showed great resiliency, played with tremendous energy tonight,” Gottfried said. “I’m just really happy for our young men. They get to experience something positive, something to build on down the stretch and we’ll see what happens.”
The Wolfpack got the game off to a quick start and took a 12-6 lead with an 8-0 run that featured six points from Smith, including a 3-pointer.
Henderson sparked a 10-2 run in the second half when he drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and a short jump shot. That, followed by a Kapita jumper, gave the Wolfpack a 29-20 lead with 5:21 left in the half.
Georgia Tech was able to cut the lead to five points with 45 seconds left, but the Wolfpack got most of it back on a Kapita dunk and a layup by Rowan, who intercepted a lazy inbounds pass from Georgia Tech and stuck it in the basket with four seconds left. That gave N.C. State a 39-30 lead at the half.
Henderson had 12 points and Smith scored 10 in the first half. The Wolfpack outrebounded Georgia Tech 22-13 and scored 10 second-chance points. Georgia Tech stayed as close as it did because of Okogie’s 14 first-half points.