The Jackets topped the Wolfpack in the second ACC Tournament Semifinal at Greensboro Coliseum, 57-54.
In yet another game that came down to the very last minute, Tech was able to defend another desperation three-pointer in the waning seconds of the game to secure the victory.
While Tech has been projected as a bubble team for the NCAA tournament, N.C. State was widely assumed to have to win the tournament to assure a place in the final 65.
“I told my team, ‘The officials just told me you guys are going to decide this game, they are not going to take it upon themselves.’ I think hearing that, that made them play more aggressively,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Possibly as a result of the implications of the game for both teams, the game was more physical and heated than the last two games. This led to several close confrontations with the players. Leading 49-46, N.C. State guard Javier Gonzalez was stripped of the ball by sophomore guard Iman Shumpert, who made a pass to Favors as the freshman was streaking towards the basket. Gonzalez, behind but catching up, reached out and grabbed a hold of Favors’ jersey and nearly knocked the forward down. Gonzalez was immediately called for an intentional foul. Favors immediately went into the huddle instead of retaliating or exchanging words with Gonazlez.
“I never saw him lose his cool…and that’s what really makes me feel like this kid’s going to be a great player,” said Head Coach Paul Hewitt.
Favors made one of the two subsequent free throws. On the next play for Tech, he was fed the ball for a layup to extend the lead to six. He was fouled on that play as well, but missed the free throw.
His two missed free throws in the stretch were two of the 13 Tech missed throughout the game. For the second straight game, junior forward Gani Lawal shot under 30 percent from the line, making just two-of-seven. Shumpert also had trouble hitting his free throw shots, only making one of his four attempts.
Despite these two players’ struggles, two of the seniors came in and were perfect from the charity stripe. Senior forward Zachery Peacock made none of his five field goal attempts but hit all four shots when he went to the line. Senior forward D’Andre Bell made all six of his free throw attempts, including a crucial two with just 11 seconds left.
Leading by one, Tech had to inbound the ball after a timeout. Freshman Glen Rice Jr. eventually threw the ball to Bell, who was immediately fouled after catching it.
“We tried to get D’Andre the ball on that [last play].…he went and got the ball and was strong with it,” Hewitt said.
Bell finished with nine points and four assists.
“Honestly, I knew it was going to be a dogfight, but I didn’t think it was going to come down to an [in bounds play],” Bell said.
Tech stayed in the game and kept N.C. State’s lead to four through its big men and their post play. Favors led all scorers with 17 points. He also played the most of any Tech player, staying in the game for 34 minutes.
“[Favors] commented to me before the tournament started that one of the things that makes him more confident and allows him to stay out of foul trouble is that he’s stronger and he doesn’t get as tired as fast,” Hewitt said.
Like in the last game, Tech jumped to a large first half-head in large part due to its perimeter defense and the teams ability to get the ball inside to the squad’s forwards.
N.C. State had rallied the previous night against Florida State with the help of the three-point shot, mainly by freshman forward Scott Wood. Against Tech, though, the Wolfpack players were able to drain just one of 12 of three-pointers in the first half. Conversely, Tech attempted just five from beyond the arc but hit two of them.
The Jackets also got the ball inside the paint to its forwards for the majority of Tech’s points in the opening half. Favors and Lawal combined to shoot seven-of-11 from the field and both had seven rebounds. The two tied for the total number of rebounds by the N.C. State team during the first 20 minutes.
“We feel our inside presence is our strong point, and that’s where we get ourselves ticking. [We] go inside, get guys like Brian Oliver and Moe Miller shots, and approach it like that,” Lawal said.
In the second half, N.C. State opened with a 17-4 half to take the lead. Still, despite trailing for an extended period of time, Tech took the lead with 2:48 to play and held on to win the game.
Tech next plays Duke in the title game on Sunday. The two split their earlier meetings with each team winning its respective home date.
“Obviously Duke’s a great team…but we feel that going into this game, we’re worried about what we do. That’s not to be cocky or arrogant, [but] we feel if we come in and establish ourselves inside out, like we did at Tech and not at Cameron, we’ll have some good results,” Lawal said.