RALEIGH, N.C. - Georgia Tech has shown it can play with some of the nation's top teams. Now the Yellow Jackets seem eager to prove they can finish strong, too.
Berkmar grad Matt Causey had 18 points while Anthony Morrow went 4-for-4 at the line in the final 19 seconds to help Georgia Tech hold off North Carolina State 77-74 on Wednesday night, giving the Yellow Jackets their first win here in a dozen years.
D'Andre Bell and former Norcross star Gani Lawal each added 13 points for the Yellow Jackets (9-9, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who went ahead for good in the final 2 1/2 minutes and turned away every push by N.C. State in the final seconds.
It was an uncommonly steady late-game performance by the Yellow Jackets, who missed two shots for the win in the final seconds of last week's 83-82 loss to then-No. 1 North Carolina. They also lost by four at Indiana and by five against Kansas this year.
On Wednesday night, Georgia Tech shot 59 percent for the game and went 12-for-15 from the foul line with just three turnovers in the second half.
'We've hung in there with everyone this year,' Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. 'Hanging around hasn't been the problem. The last four minutes has been the problem, and tonight we did the things we needed to do in the last four minutes to win.
'If we had done those things earlier in the year, our won-loss record would be a lot better. And as long as we do those things, we'll be all right.'
On this night, that meant knocking down six straight free throws in the final 41 seconds, the last two coming from Morrow to make the score 77-74 with 8.8 seconds left. That gave the Wolfpack a final chance to tie, but Javi Gonzalez airballed a 3-pointer from the right side that was rebounded by Georgia Tech's Lewis Clinch as the horn sounded.
It was a great way for Georgia Tech to start a tough stretch that will have the Yellow Jackets play five of six games on the road. They hadn't won in Raleigh since 1996 and had lost the past seven meetings since N.C. State (12-6, 1-3) moved from Reynolds Coliseum to the RBC Center in the 1999-2000 season.
'It's definitely a hard place to win - I mean, anywhere in the ACC is, but especially here,' Causey said. 'It just builds momentum for us. We just need to keep this going.'
Causey scored 13 points after halftime and finished with five assists and four steals, a strong follow-up to his 30-point day in a weekend win against Virginia Tech.
Morrow, who had just five points before stepping to the line late, did the rest.
'I wanted to do my part in just making those free throws and keeping everything calm,' the senior said. 'I didn't put any pressure on myself. I just said, 'Look, make these and everybody will stay calm.'
It was another frustrating loss for the Wolfpack, who was expected to be one of the ACC's top teams but is quickly falling into also-ran status. Courtney Fells finished with a career-high 23 points while J.J. Hickson had 16 points and 10 rebounds, but the Wolfpack couldn't get any needed stops down the stretch once Georgia Tech took control.
Gavin Grant's last-second steal and layup in Saturday's 79-77 overtime win against Miami seemed to have rejuvenated the Wolfpack, but they came out flat against the Yellow Jackets and fell behind 7-0 in the first 90 seconds.
'We had to get hit before we were able to get into it,' N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. 'We just made bad decisions. We missed some open looks. We tried to do some things by ourselves, so we missed some things.'
N.C. State led by five points midway through the second half before the Yellow Jackets ran off 10 straight points to retake momentum. And after Fells' three-point play gave the Wolfpack a 65-63 lead with 3:41 left, Georgia Tech responded with six straight points to push ahead for good. Bell had a dunk in transition for the lead at 67-65, while Zach Peacock hit a pair of free throws on the next possession.
N.C. State twice closed the gap to one, first coming on Hickson's three-point play that made it 73-72 with 28.5 seconds left. But Morrow knocked down two free throws at the other end to push the margin to three.
Then, after Fells' dunk again cut it to one, Morrow coolly knocked down the final two free throws that sealed the game.
'They made sure that nobody tried to take the game from them,' said Grant, who had eight points and seven assists.