After a tough loss on the road against Duke, the No. 19 Jackets headed back home on Saturday, Feb. 6 to face North Carolina State. Despite blowing a double-digit lead late in the second half, Tech held on to win the contest 73-71. The Jackets followed up, though, by dropping a road battle at Miami 64-62.
The Jackets now stand 17-7 overall and an even 5-5 in ACC play.
The first half started slowly for both teams. After eight minutes of play, the score was just 6-4 in Tech’s favor. The Jackets picked it up, though, going on an 11-3 run over the next four minutes to put them up 17-7. Senior forward Zachery Peacock led the charge, accounting for seven of Tech’s 11 in this stretch. Peacock finished the game with a team-high 22 points.
Over the next five minutes, N.C. State battled back to tie the score at 27. A minute later, guard Scott Wood hit his fourth three-pointer of the period to give the Wolfpack a 30-27 lead. Peacock countered with a three, but a jumper by N.C. State junior forward Tracy Smith put them back in front 32-30 headed into the break.
The Jackets opened the second half with a 15-4 run to give them a nine-point advantage. They held the lead for the majority of the half, building up a 68-52 edge with just five minutes left to play.
N.C. State responded to the 16-point deficit by implementing a full-court press around the four minute mark. The press worked well for the Wolfpack, as they caused seven turnovers in just three and a half minutes and fought back to within one.
“We didn’t execute the press offense,” Tech head coach Paul Hewitt said after the game. “We panicked, just panicked.”
With the score at 70-69, N.C. State’s Wood missed a three for the lead, and a steal by senior forward D’Andre Bell gave Tech possession with 1:34 remaining. A foul by Smith put Bell at the line for two, but he failed to convert, giving the Wolfpack the ball with another chance to go ahead.
Sophomore guard Iman Shumpert was able to disrupt N.C. State’s possession, and another Smith foul put Peacock at the stripe for two foul shots. He hit them both, putting the Jackets up three with 1:04 left in the game.
The Wolfpack missed another three-pointer, this time off the hands of guard Javier Gonzalez, and freshman forward Derrick Favors grabbed the rebound and drew the foul. He hit his second free throw to put Tech up 73-69 with 35 seconds remaining. Favors, who finished the game with 16 points and 8 rebounds, garnered ACC Rookie of the Week honors for his performance.
On the ensuing possession, Smith missed a shot but freshman forward Glen Rice, Jr. fouled in the scramble for the rebound, allowing N.C. State forward Dennis Horner to hit two foul shots to cut Tech’s lead to two. A Tech turnover gave the ball back to the Wolfpack with 15 seconds left, but they missed two jumpers as time expired, giving the Jackets the narrow victory.
Tech’s free throw shooting woes continued on Saturday, as they went 15-29 from the line on the day. Of the seven players to get to the line, just two shot better than 50 percent. When asked about his team’s free throw numbers, Hewitt focused on the late meltdown.
“It’s OK, that’s going to happen,” Hewitt said. “We had a 16-point lead. We’re supposed to finish the game out.”
Three days after skimming past N.C. State at home, the Jackets took the court in Miami to face the Hurricanes. Like the Wolfpack, Miami was near the bottom of the ACC headed into Wednesday night’s match-up, coming in at 2-7 in conference play. Unfortunately for Tech, the Hurricanes were on the winning end of this tight game, coming away with a 64-62 victory to put the Jackets back at .500 in the ACC.
Despite jumping out to an early lead, Tech was unable to restrain the fighting Hurricanes, and after nine minutes of play Miami stole the edge. A three-pointer by freshman guard Brian Oliver put the Jackets up 11-3 at the 14:20 mark, but just three minutes later the Hurricanes had battled back to take the lead, pulling ahead 15-13 behind a three from Adrian Thomas. Thomas, who finished with 12 points, shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc on the night.
After Thomas’ lead-changing three, Tech was only able to score 14 more points all half. Miami, however, added 26 points in the same period, putting the halftime score at 41-27 in favor of the Hurricanes.
The Jackets rallied in the second half, cutting Miami’s lead all the way down to two with just over nine minutes remaining. Oliver led the way for Tech, notching eight points during the rally and finishing the game with a team-high 19 points. Junior forward Gani Lawal played well too, getting eight of his own to open the second stanza and finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds.
With nine minutes left in the game, Tech was down 52-50 and looking to continue its comeback. The Hurricanes forged ahead with an 8-2 run, but Oliver and Lawal combined for six points to bring the Jackets back in range, cutting Miami’s advantage to 60-58 with two minutes remaining.
The Hurricanes hit a layup to go up by four, but two free throws and a layup by Shumpert tied the score at 62 with only nine seconds remaining. Miami emerged from a timeout and got the ball to James Dews, who hit the game-winning jumper as time expired to close out the Hurricanes’ victory.
Tech continued to shoot poorly from the foul line, only hitting 8 of their 16 opportunities on the night. Lawal, who has struggled from the stripe as of late, shot just 3-for-8 from the line.
The Jackets will stay on the road for their next game, which comes against Wake Forest on Saturday, Feb. 12.