Georgia Tech didn’t help its drive to make the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday with a 71-69 loss to N.C. State.
The Yellow Jackets (16-12, 7-8 ACC) couldn’t overcome a bad night from center Ben Lammers, who was held to six points and didn’t score his first basket until 43 seconds left.
The Yellow Jackets tried to make it a game at the end. Trailing 48-39 with 12:56 remaining, they drew to within a point when Tadric Jackson made a 3-pointer with four seconds left.
After N.C. State’s Dennis Smith missed 1-of-2 free throws with 2.1 seconds left, the Yellow Jackets had a good look to win it. The ball was passed to Jackson, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer with the ball bouncing off the rim as the horn sounded.
After the game, head coach Josh Pastner acknowledged that the Yellow Jackets probably need to win two of their final three games to assure themselves of an NCAA spot. They finish against Notre Dame and Syracuse on the road and at home against Pittsburgh.
The game capped a weird week for N.C. State, which announced last week that Mark Gottfried would not return next season as its head coach but left him as a lame-duck for the final two weeks and the postseason.
Four who mattered
Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie: He was energetic and in attack mode from the first tip. The freshman scored 25 points on 11-for-17 shooting with four rebounds and two blocks.
Lammers: The junior looked tired and made only 1-of-9 from the field. He had nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals but never got it going on offense. He got to the bench for one minute and has played 158 minutes during the final four games.
Jackson: The junior is more confident attacking the basket and had a pair of 3-pointers to make things interesting.
N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr.: The freshman showed why he’s projected as an NBA lottery pick. He scored 18 points, including a couple of 3-pointers as the shot clock was about to expire. Smith had three steals, two assists and a block.
N.C. State’s Terry 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 Ted Kapita jumper, gave the Wolfpack a 29-20 lead with 5:21 left in the half. Henderson finished with 21 points.
Jackets struggle at the line: Free-throw shooting killed Georgia Tech’s chances. The Yellow Jackets got to the line 22 times but made only 13. Lammers, who shoots 76.4 percent, was 4-for-8.
Assists are down: Georgia Tech’s goal is have an assist on 60 percent of its made field goals. That didn’t happen. The Yellow Jackets had 13 assists on 26 baskets.
Guard rebounds are down: The Yellow Jackets also expect a lot of help on the glass from the guards. Against the Wolfpack the guards had only seven.
Heavy legs: The heavy workload is starting to take its toll on the Yellow Jackets, who had just one day to recover from Sunday’s physical affair against Syracuse. Stephens played 40 minutes for the second straight game. Pastner is essentially playing seven players these days with five of them logging 30-plus minutes.
The crowd was good: It wasn’t a sellout, but the crowd was excellent considering the rainy weather and the condition of the N.C. State program. The student section was loaded, largely because of a promotion that gave away a Vespa. Former athletics director Homer Rice, who was celebrating his 90th birthday, was recognized at center court during a first-half break.
They said it
N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried on slowing Lammers: “I don’t know that it was anything special. (Abdul-Malik Abu) 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.”
Pastner on Lammers’ performance: “Ben Lammers has carried us all year, and if he’s not good, it’s awfully hard for us. He was not good (Tuesday). That’s about as truthful as I can be.”
Pastner on the postseason expectations: “I believe for us to be in the NCAA tournament we have to win nine (ACC games.) If we get to nine, I truly believe we’re in. We’re at seven — we’re going to have to get two more out of these last three.”
Pastner on the comeback effort: “I was so proud of our guys in the late-game execution. We’ve been really good on that. This team has continued to never stop playing.”
Georgia Tech plays at Notre Dame at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Yellow Jackets beat the Fighting Irish on a buzzer-beater Jan. 28 in Atlanta.