RALEIGH – With the game on the line, everybody knew N.C. State wanted the ball in T.J. Warren’s hands.
And nobody could stop the ACC’s top scorer when it counted most. Warren’s contested, running jumper with 6.2 seconds to go in overtime lifted N.C. State past Georgia Tech, 80-78, on Sunday.
Warren, who entered averaging a league-leading 22 points, finished with 20 in his first game back from an ankle injury.
“(Warren) had to take a tough shot. A runner (from) 12 feet, going away from the basket, over a defender, isn’t an easy shot,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “And that’s why he’s the leading scorer in the league right now.”
The Wolfpack (13-7, 3-4) trailed by 11 with less than 16 minutes to play before rallying for their second straight win.
Daniel Miller scored a career-high 21 points for Georgia Tech (11-9, 2-5), which had one last chance after Ralston Turner missed two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining.
Kammeon Holsey took the full-court inbounds pass and flipped the ball to Chris Bolden – whose 30-footer from the left wing was on line but bounced off the iron.
“It looked good when it left his hand,” Warren said. “Just glad he missed it.”
Turner had 12 points, Desmond Lee added 11 and Tyler Lewis scored all 10 of his in the second half for N.C. State, which rallied from 11 down in the second half to beat Maryland on Monday night – a game Warren missed.
“One thing with our group – boy, they’ve got a lot of resolve,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “There’s just not a lot of pouting. It’s a fun group in that regard. And that gives them a chance.”
Trae Golden finished with 18 points for the Yellow Jackets, who have lost five of seven. They had the ball in the final minute of OT with the score tied at 78 but N.C. State’s Jordan Vandenberg stole Holsey’s overthrown pass into the post with about 35 seconds remaining.
The Wolfpack called a timeout with 30.6 seconds remaining and milked most of the clock before Warren cut across the lane and knocked down a jumper over two Georgia Tech defenders.
“We executed it perfectly off the high post,” Warren said. “I got off the screen, and the ball was right there, and I hit the shot.”
The Yellow Jackets hurried downcourt but Lee drew a charge on Golden with 2.5 seconds to go.
“I never thought they’d call that at that time,” Golden said. “I felt like I let my team down in that situation. They look to me to make those plays.”
Quinton Stephens scored a career-high 13 points and Marcus Georges-Hunt added 13 more for Georgia Tech, which could’ve won it in regulation.
Lee tied it at 72 for N.C. State when he put back Warren’s missed drive with 22.5 seconds left.
The Yellow Jackets called a timeout with 16.1 seconds left to set their offense but Golden’s kickout 3 with about a second left failed to draw iron.
“He’s made a lot of big shots for us – in that same spot, to be honest with you,” Gregory said. “He’s been our go-to guy for a long time – this whole year, basically – so getting the ball in his hands was something we wanted to do.”
Miller surpassed his previous high of 20 points, set two months ago against Dayton, for Georgia Tech. His jumper from the elbow with just under 16 minutes left made it 52-41.
But behind consecutive 3-pointers about 40 seconds apart by Lewis, the Wolfpack clawed back in it.
Lewis later knocked down a jumper in traffic with nine minutes remaining to pull the Wolfpack to 57-56, and Lee’s up-and-under layup two minutes later gave N.C. State its first lead since midway through the first half at 62-61.
“The two 3-pointers (by Lewis) were absolutely huge at that time in the game,” Gottfried said. “They energized us as much as anything.”