NC State jumped out to a quick lead behind the scoring of freshman guard Lorenzo Brown. With Tech focusing on C.J. Leslie and Tracy Smith in the paint, the Jackets doubled down off Brown, and he made them pay.
Brown hit two threes before the first television timeout and after a steal he was fouled on a breakaway layup attempt. He knocked down both free throws, and he had 11 of the Pack's first 16 points, as State took an early 16-10 lead.
State held a double-digit lead on a few different occasions in the first half, but to Tech's credit they continued to claw back.
The Pack took a 39-27 lead at the 2:41 mark on a C.J. Leslie layup, but the Yellow Jackets ran off a 6-0 spurt before the halftime buzzer to cut the 12-point deficit down to six at 39-33.
The reason why NC State couldn't build a bigger lead is Tech was making shots. The Jackets, one of the worst shooting teams in the ACC, shot 56% from the field in the first half to stay within range of the Wolfpack.
Both teams continued to exchange runs for much of the second half and the star for Tech was point guard Iman Shumpert. The 6-foot-5 junior was extremely assertive after halftime, scoring nine of Tech's first 13 second-half points.
His assist to Mfon Udofia for a fastbreak layup would give Tech a 50-49 lead with 14:56 remaining, first lead since the 16:40 mark of the first half. State would counter with a 5-0 spurt of it's own, including two dunks by sophomore center Jordan Vandenberg.
Tech battled back to tie the score at 54 before it was another run by NC State, a 11-0 spurt, that allowed State to seize momentum in the game.
State locked down defensively over the four-minute stretch, forcing three Georgia Tech turnovers and scoring on six straight possessions. Ryan Harrow's jumper at the 6:26 mark gave State a 65-54 lead, but Tech wouldn't fold.
Tech would close to three points at 69-66 behind a 3-pointer from Udofia, but Scott Wood, who shot the ball well all game for State, made perhaps the biggest play of the game.
Tech's Glen Rice forced a steal with 1:55 remaining, and he looked to outlet quickly to Shumpert. However, Wood was reading the play all along, and he cut in front of Shumpert to steal the pass and drove to the basket for a layup he converted over Rice. Tech had a chance to cut the lead to one or tie the game with a three-pointer, but Wood's heady play pushed the lead back to two possessions.
State wouldn't let Tech get it closer than three the rest of the way. The Pack led by three with 42 seconds left, but Wood and Ryan Harrow combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line to close out the 79-74 victory for the Wolfpack.
"We found a way to win," said head coach Sidney Lowe. "I thought our guys hung in there tough after Georgia Tech made their run and applied a little bit more pressure. I thought we did a decent job of handling that."
NC State shot 50% from the field, hitting 28-of-56 field goal attempts and 6-of-15 from behind the 3-point line. The Wolfpack had 16 assists and just ten turnovers, and also had ten steals.
Wood's 20 points led the way for State. The 6-foot-7 sophomore hit 7-of-10 shots from the field, and was 4-of-4 from the free throw line and 2-of-5 behind the 3-point arc. Tracy Smith added 18 (8-of-10 FGs) and Lorenzo Brown had 13 and three assists. Harrow had a nice game as well, totaling 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Tech was led by Shumpert, who scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He also had a game-high eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. However, he had a 13-minute stretch midway through the second half when he didn't hit a field goal.
"When he has the ball in his hands he is very difficult," said Lowe. "I thought Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Williams did a great job of shutting him down, especially later in the game by limiting his touches."
Udofia chipped in 13, and Glen Rice Jr. came off the bench to score 12 points and grab four rebounds.
Next up for NC State (15-13, 5-9 ACC) is a mid-week road game at Virginia (14-14, 5-9 ACC). The Cavaliers were routed today at home by Boston College, 63-44.
Overall, Lowe seemed pleased with how his team closed out the win.
"We hit key free throws down the stretch, and Scott Wood had a big steal when they were taking the ball out of bounds," said Lowe. "I thought our bench - Richard [Howell], Jordan [Vandenberg], C.J. Williams, and Javi [Gonzalez] were great for us. We needed them tonight."