That’s one way to start the season.
Actually, it’s the same way N.C. State ended its home schedule last season. James Banks and Georgia Tech nipped the Wolfpack at the wire.
Banks made a pair of free throws, with 2.1 seconds left in overtime, to give the Yellow Jackets an 82-81 win over the short-handed Wolfpack on Tuesday to open the 2019-20 season.
Without guard Markell Johnson or forward D.J. Funderburk, N.C. State turned to C.J. Bryce (24 points) and Jericole Hellems (15 points). The Wolfpack didn’t trail in regulation, and led by as many as 15 in the first half, but couldn’t close out the Yellow Jackets.
It was Banks’ dunk last March, at the buzzer, which gave Georgia Tech a 63-61 win at PNC Arena. Banks finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks on Tuesday.
N.C. State led 81-80 as the seconds were ticking away at the end of overtime. Devon Daniels came up with a steal for N.C. State and sped past halfcourt and was surrounded by three Georgia Tech players.
“I should have just kept the ball and let them foul me,” Daniels said.
Daniels saw forward Manny Bates alone on the run to the basket and threw it to the 6-11 freshman.
“I was running the floor and then I saw Devon look at me,” Bates said. “I anticipated the pass but was rushing and was anticipating putting the ball in the basket before I caught it.”
The pass went through Bates’ hands and off his shoulder. After a scramble on the floor, Georgia Tech guard Jose Alvarado came away with the ball.
He drove to the basket, just as he did in last year’s win at the same end of the floor, and the ball found its way to Banks. The Georgia Tech forward went up to dunk it but was fouled by Daniels.
“I figured I’d rather foul him then let him dunk it,” Daniels said.
Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts, who fell to 0-3 vs. Georgia Tech, called timeout to try and ice Banks, who was a 68 percent free-throw shooter last season.
“I was hoping that he would miss both but he stepped up and he made both of those free throws,” Keatts said. “He’s a good player.”
N.C. State was missing two of its best players. Johnson, the top returning scorer, suffered an ankle injury in practice last week and watched from the bench. Funderburk was suspended for violating team rules in the offseason and watched helplessly with him.
Pat Andree, a graduate transfer from Lehigh, was hot from the 3-point line early and finished with 12 points for the Wolfpack. He made his first three 3-pointers and helped N.C. State build a 15-point margin in the first half.
“We all did our best but it is different playing without those two guys,” Andree said of the absence of Johnson and Funderburk. “We need those guys to come back soon.”
Last year’s loss to the Jackets came when N.C. State was scrambling for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Tuesday’s loss was just the beginning a long 20-game, ACC schedule.
“We’ll move on and we’ll get better from this,” Keatts said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some other guys back that will get healthy and we’ll be a better basketball team.”
Freshman forward Manny Bates had seven rebounds and five blocks in his first ACC game. That was against one of the best forwards in the ACC provided a learning curve for Bates.
“It was a pretty good battle,” Bates said. “He’s a great player at my position. I give him a lot of respect.”
N.C. State’s transition defense was suspect at the end of the first half, after it had built up a 39-24 lead. Georgia Tech got too many clean looks and easy drives to the basket to get back into the game.
Freshman guard Dereon Seabron will be an academic redshirt this season, N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said after the game.
Making sense of the numbers
12 N.C. State only turned the ball over 12 times (compared to 18 by Georgia Tech) but it was the last one by Daniels in overtime that was most costly.