ATLANTA — Through the pain of a winless February, Georgia Tech didn’t give up on a season going nowhere.
Finally, a long-awaited reward came with the end of the regular season only two days away.
Tadric Jackson scored 22 points, Ben Lammers added 20, including eight straight late in the game, and Georgia Tech beat North Carolina State 78-75 on Thursday night to end its seven-game losing streak.
“For us it validated that we are getting better,” said Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner.
Georgia Tech (12-18, 5-12 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost 11 of 12 before taking its first win since beating Syracuse on Jan. 31.
“We’ve had a fair amount of close games in the past that didn’t turn our way,” Lammers said. “... We knew we were improving.”
Josh Okogie had 18 points for Georgia Tech, including a 3-pointer for a 78-72 lead. Braxton Beverly cut the lead to three points with a 3-pointer but missed two 3s on the Wolfpack’s final possession.
“I thought I had ‘em,” Beverly said. “The shots just didn’t go in.”
N.C. State (20-10, 10-7), perhaps looking past the Yellow Jackets, had its four-game winning streak end.
“I think we got a little too ahead of ourselves tonight,” Beverly said. “In this conference, you can’t take a night off. You’ll get beat.”
Allerik Freeman scored 19 points, including 14 in the second half, to lead the Wolfpack. Omer Yurtseven had 17 points and nine rebounds.
N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts and Torin Dorn, who had 18 points, were called for technical fouls. Keatts said he didn’t know why either foul was called.
Keatts quickly shifted his focus to the Wolfpack’s final regular-season game against Louisville.
“My message was one game doesn’t define you,” Keatts said. “We’ve been playing great basketball. ... We lost tonight, so what do you do? Do you hold your head down? We don’t have time for that. We have to get ready for Louisville on Saturday.”
N.C. State took its last lead at 72-71 on a jumper by Dorn. Lammers answered with a basket and added a layup on Georgia Tech’s next possession for a 75-72 lead, giving him eight straight points for the Yellow Jackets.
Yurtseven blocked a shot by Okogie on Georgia Tech’s first possession, and the Wolfpack scored the game’s first seven points. Jackson and Moses Wright committed turnovers before the Yellow Jackets’ first points on a 3-pointer by Jackson.
N.C. State: A mistake turned momentum away from the Wolfpack midway through the second half. N.C. State led 48-40 before Dorn missed a jam. Georgia Tech scored the next seven points to pull to within one point at 48-47. After shooting at least 50 percent from the field in five straight games, the Wolfpack made 29 of 65 shots (44.6 percent).
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets made only 8 of 17 free throws and committed 14 turnovers. The struggles in the backcourt became a glaring problem after starting point guard Jose Alvarado was lost for the season with a fractured left elbow on Feb. 11 against Duke. Even so, the second-half improvement was obvious. After having 11 turnovers with six assists in the first half, the Yellow Jackets had 12 assists with only three turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
After playing through a sprained right ankle for most of the season, Lammers finally is close to full health. It shows on the court. The 6-foot-10 senior center set a career high with seven assists while making 9 of 13 shots from the field and leading the Yellow Jackets with nine rebounds and four steals.
“That’s what we expected Ben Lammers to be,” Pastner said.
The win was the 200th of Pastner’s career at Memphis and Georgia Tech. He is 200-107, including 33-34 in his second season at Georgia Tech.
N.C. State hosts Louisville on Saturday.
Georgia Tech closes the regular season by hosting Wake Forest on Saturday.
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