It truly was bottom-table ACC basketball when Georgia Tech hosted North Carolina State Tuesday night. Georgia Tech looked to capitalize on the ice-cold Wolfpack, who entered the game on a six-game losing streak and at the bottom of the ACC standings.
For head coach Josh Pastner and his team, this game was a nightmare and one that symbolized a shell of what used to be for the program.
Fans that showed up were given very little to cheer about, and by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, they realized this game was well over. The student section called it quits at halftime, with more than half of the students heading for the exits before the second half ensued.
“I give a tremendous apology to the fans, especially that first half… it’s just not our standard,” coach Pastner said.
But what happened in Georgia Tech’s catastrophic first-half outing that led to a 76-61 loss?
NC State guard Terquavion Smith stole the show in Atlanta Tuesday night. The freshman guard capitalized off a defense who was fixated on slowing down the Wolfpack leading scorer, Dereon Seabron. Whether it was from beyond the arc or challenging the Yellow Jackets frontcourt in the paint, Smith was scoring at will not just in the first half but all night long. The Wolfpack entered the half up 51-25, with Smith leading the team with 18 points on 6-8 shooting. The freshman guard finished the game with 26 points, eight rebounds, and three assists.
While it will be his scoring that Smith will be remembered for in this game, his true playmaking ability should be noted as well. Smith got his teammates involved any chance he could, with Seabron scoring 11 points and Cam Hayes adding 14 to the scoring total. The Wolfpack backcourt drowned Georgia Tech’s defensive set, and it was thanks to Terquavion Smith.
It would be an understatement to say it was a slow start by the Yellow Jackets. From the opening tip, the Georgia Tech offense could not buy a single basket. Only three players scored in the first half: Michael Devoe, Jordan Usher, and Rodney Howard. Of those three players, only Devoe would see double digits with the guard putting up 13 first-half points and being the only spark on the floor. The Yellow Jackets would settle for very contested shots which kept the offense struggling for the first twenty minutes. This led to Georgia Tech shooting 10-28 from the field and an abysmal 1-10 from beyond the arc.
“Honestly, it felt like [were] a step ahead in everything they did. We always tend to start off slow and then try to fight back,” Kyle Sturdivant said.
Full Court Pressure
From the opening tip, North Carolina State implemented a very strong full-court man to man defense. The defensive pressure from the Wolfpack stunned the primary ball handlers of Georgia Tech and led to many empty possessions. The Yellow Jackets would give up a whopping nine first-half turnovers with Jordan Usher and Khalid Moore leading the team, both adding 3 turnovers to their stat sheet. NC State capitalized off the forced turnovers with a total of 15 points stemming from the misplay. The combination of turnovers and empty possessions allowed the Wolfpack to jump out to a massive lead early and cruise to victory.
This disappointing loss sets the Yellow Jackets to 10-15 on the year and at the bottom of the ACC. But, for coach Pastner and his program, it’s safe to say this season is well and done, barring any miracles.
“[Losing is] difficult because we feel like we can compete with any team in this league, we just [have to] figure it out and put it together for 40 minutes,” Sturdivant said.