ATLANTA — Zachery Peacock has seen Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt angry plenty of times.
But after a Yellow Jackets victory? This might have been a first.
“I totally understand what he’s feeling,” said Peacock, a senior sixth man. “We’re not playing our best basketball, and it’s not because of effort. It’s because of our decision-making.”
Peacock scored 22 points, freshman Derrick Favors added 16, and No. 21 Georgia Tech held off North Carolina State 73-71 on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets (17-6, 5-4) improved to 12-1 at home, and they have won four of their last six in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But Georgia Tech struggled to hold off the last-place Wolfpack despite leading by 16 points with 5:01 remaining.
After telling his players that he was disgusted in their performance during a blowout loss Thursday at No. 10 Duke, Hewitt thought the team would respond favorably.
“I told them that was the most embarrassed I’ve been since I’ve been here — in the second half at Duke,” said Hewitt, now in his 10th year at Georgia Tech. “That was absolutely, completely an embarrassment. Well, I topped that today.”
Switching to a full-court press late in the game, N.C. State (14-10, 2-7) frustrated Georgia Tech into committing several turnovers and possession arrow miscues before Julius Mays stole D’Andre Bell’s backcourt pass and hit a layup to make it 70-69 with 2:09 remaining.
After Dennis Horner’s two free throws cut the lead to 73-71, the Yellow Jackets again failed to make an accurate inbounds pass from the baseline, and N.C. State had a chance to tie or win the game.
Javier Gonzalez, however, missed a jumper, and Mays’ straightaway 3-point attempt bounced off the front of the rim at the buzzer.
After he released the shot, Mays pleaded with the officials to call a foul. Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe was furious that no call was made and left the court without exchanging the accustomed congratulatory handshake with Hewitt.
“I just went to his locker room and talked to him, and he certainly understands,” Lowe said. “The heat of the moment got me right there. I was a little disappointed, a little upset at some things.”
Tracy Smith scored 22 points for the Wolfpack, who have lost four straight in the ACC.
“Our press was hard and aggressive,” Smith said. “We had them rattled.”
Horner, coming off the bench for the first time this season, finished with 14 points for N.C. State, which had won nine of 12 against Georgia Tech.
Freshman Scott Wood had 12 points, and Gonzalez added 13 for the Wolfpack.
Peacock and Favors combined to hit three of four free throws in the final minute to give the Yellow Jackets a 73-69 lead.
Iman Shumpert, who added 14 points for Georgia Tech, hit a straightaway 3 to give the Jackets their biggest lead, 66-50.
“We thought we had it sewed up,” said Shumpert, who started and played 32 minutes despite a virus. “We thought we could probably just push it out after that and we’d just be shooting free throws. They got a couple of quick steals, which raised the confidence in their press, and then it turned into a rough game.”
Hewitt indicated he would stick to his plan of giving the players Sunday off and returning to practice on Monday, but the workout session isn’t likely to be easy.
“This game is over,” Hewitt said. “Let’s get ready for Miami, but they better take a long look in the mirror, including me. I have to figure out what we have to do to play 40 minutes like the way we’re supposed to play ball.”