RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State didn't let another close game slip away late.
Scott Wood scored 20 points and made several key plays in the final 2 minutes to help the Wolfpack hold off Georgia Tech 79-74 on Saturday, snapping a two-game losing streak while extending the Yellow Jackets' road misery.
Tracy Smith added 18 points for the Wolfpack (15-13, 5-9 Atlantic Coast Conference), who used an 11-0 run to go ahead midway through the second half. But N.C. State had to hold on to the final horn, making enough plays to turn away several pushes by the Yellow Jackets (11-17, 3-11) that kept it a one-possession game.
It didn't even matter that this win came against another of the league's worst teams. At this point, the Wolfpack just needed something positive to happen after fumbling away chances to win at Maryland last weekend and at home against rival North Carolina on Wednesday night.
"They're all important," Wood said. "The main thing right now is that every team we can beat we bump them down one. We're just trying to get the best seeding as possible for the ACC tournament."
Wood did his part. The long-distance shooter hit a pair of 3-pointers, but was also active inside the arc and had what might have been the biggest play of the game with his steal and layup after the Yellow Jackets had closed to 69-66 with about 2 minutes left.
He knocked down four straight free throws in the final 30 seconds, part of the Wolfpack's 6-for-6 performance at the line to close this one out.
"Down the stretch, we played much smarter today," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "We still made mistakes, but we played much smarter. That's what I told the team. ... We controlled it, we ran the clock down, got shots we wanted. We didn't really force shots late in the ballgame."
Compare that to the past two games. N.C. State was tied with Maryland with 61/2 minutes left before the Terrapins went on a 12-1 run on the way to an 87-80 win. Against the 19th-ranked Tar Heels, the Wolfpack trailed by a point with 9 minutes left before North Carolina went on a 19-7 run on the way to a 75-63 win.
N.C. State also got a boost with the return of sophomore Richard Howell (seven rebounds), who missed the UNC game with a possible concussion.
"It's never too late to change or for your team to get it and understand it," Lowe said. "Sometimes it takes a little longer than it does with other teams, but it's never too late so hopefully we take this win and understand what we did — and then the next game in the same situation, we can do it again where it's just natural and it becomes a habit that we know how to win."
Georgia Tech hasn't come close to figuring that part out. The Yellow Jackets fell to 0-10 on the road this season and have lost eight straight ACC games to sink to 11th in the 12-team league.
They have one more chance for a road win. On Thursday night, they travel to last-place Wake Forest.
"We didn't get stops or rebounds," said Iman Shumpert, who had 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. "If you don't get stops down the stretch, you're not going to win."
The Wolfpack shot 50 percent and used that 11-0 run to finally get some breathing room after heading into the final 101/2 minutes tied. Smith had three key baskets during that run, scoring a layup off a feed from C.J. Williams for a 57-54 lead. He followed that by taking a flip pass from Ryan Harrow and scoring again in the paint to push the margin to five.
Then, after Wood scored a layup off a goaltending call following a turnover, Smith scored over Daniel Miller inside. Harrow closed the run with a jumper — set up by Smith's solid screen on the perimeter — to give N.C. State a 65-54 lead with 6:23 left.
That lead ultimately held up, though the Yellow Jackets fought back to within three points four times late. But Wood made his biggest play after Glen Rice Jr. had stolen a pass inside, jumping in front of Rice's outlet pass near halfcourt, then racing in for the hanging layup and a 71-66 lead with 1:47 left.
After Wood's four free throws, Harrow hit two more with 8.9 seconds left to seal it.
"It's very relieving," Smith said. "The team feels great right now. We still feel like we've got a chance. We have to make a big run and close out the next two games like we did today."