There was no miraculous comeback this time. No improbable series of events to lift NC State to another ACC win.
This time the visitors held on, as Georgia Tech buried six straight free throws in the final minute to outlast the Wolfpack 77-74 on Wednesday night at the RBC Center. The Pack had a chance to force overtime but Javier Gonzalez's 3-pointer from the wing fell short and a packed arena fell silent.
"Javi had a wide open shot and I expected him to knock it down," junior Courtney Fells said.
The final play, according to Fells, was the same one that had worked to perfection on Saturday when Fells hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Pack (12-6, 1-3 ACC) within a point with seconds remaining in overtime. But even after the game there was confusion as to who was supposed to do what on the final play against Georgia Tech (9-9, 2-3) .
According to Gonzalez and Sidney Lowe, Fells was supposed to bring the ball up and dribble through a screen from Gonzalez for the jumper. But Fells thought Gonzalez was supposed to take the inbounds while he set up the screen and then took the pass from Gonzalez. What actually happened was neither, and the final result was an airball.
"The game was lost before the last shot," senior Gavin Grant said. "It ain't on Javi or Courtney or Brandon [Costner]."
The Pack lost the game on the defensive end in the final minutes. With 3:41 left in the game Fells completed a three-point play to give State a 65-63 lead. But the Pack would allow the Yellow Jackets to score on every possession in the last three minutes, turning a lead into a four-point deficit by the two minutes mark.
"They just kept battling – they got real physical with us, played hard and toughed it out," Grant said.
The offense also struggled all game to find a rhythm against Tech's physical defensive style. While State shot nearly 50 percent for the game, they also coughed up 18 turnovers. The Pack spread the wealth when it came to turning it over, as every player that saw the court committed at least one turnover.
"We just made bad decisions," Lowe said. "We missed some open looks. Tiredness was not a factor. We tried to do things by ourselves, so we missed some things."
Fells led the Pack with 23 points, while Hickson registered a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. The Jackets had four players score in double figures, led by senior Matt Causey with 18 points.
"[Causey] was key and did a lot for them," Lowe said. "He was able to open up things inside. Our bigs opened up too much and it cost us."
The Pack will try to right the ship on the road this weekend, as it travels to Florida State on Saturday for a 1:30 contest against the Seminoles.