Paul Hewitt admits Georgia Tech spends more time preparing for some opponents than it does for others. He would be remiss, though, if struggling North Carolina State didn’t receive at least its fair share of attention.
Following a particularly disappointing loss, the 21st-ranked Yellow Jackets look to avoid becoming the latest Top 25 team to fall to the Wolfpack as the ACC rivals meet at Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
Georgia Tech (16-6, 4-4) had won four of five, including two victories against ranked teams, before losing 86-67 at No. 10 Duke on Thursday night. The Yellow Jackets lost that matchup between the ACC’s only ranked teams after beating the Blue Devils at home 71-67 on Jan. 9.
“We spend more time preparing for them than we did for anybody this year and obviously it didn’t do any good,” Hewitt said.
It would perhaps benefit Georgia Tech, though, if Hewitt at least makes it aware that its next contest has all the makings of a trap game.
The Wolfpack (14-9, 2-6) are last in the ACC, but the Yellow Jackets have lost two straight and nine of 13 in the series. N.C. State has won three of the last five meetings at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, including 86-65 last Feb. 14.
Though the Wolfpack enter this meeting following losses in five of their last eight, two of their victories over that stretch were against Top 25 teams. They beat then-No. 25 Florida State 88-81 on the road Jan. 12, fell just short in a 73-70 loss to then-No. 24 Clemson four days later and followed with an 88-74 victory over Duke on Jan. 20.
Hewitt insists Georgia Tech, which trails the first-place Blue Devils by two games, won’t be flat after a tough matchup.
“It’s not like we played heavy minutes,” he said. “Iman (Shumpert) played 30 minutes, everybody else … it was like a practice. If we’re not ready to play on Saturday, it has nothing to do with (being tired).”
Leading scorers Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors played a combined 30 minutes due to foul trouble.
Lawal, averaging 14.3 points, was held to nine in 16 minutes. The senior forward had seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in the last matchup with N.C. State.
Favors has struggled after a fast start, averaging 9.4 points over his last 10 games. The 6-foot-10 freshman will play a significant role in defending Tracy Smith and Dennis Horner, two tough Wolfpack forwards.
Smith is averaging 17.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. The junior, though, was held to 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting in a 59-47 loss to Virginia on Wednesday night.
It was the Wolfpack’s lowest-scoring game in conference play since a 59-42 loss to Clemson on Jan. 27, 2000. N.C. State has shot below 40 percent in three of four games since making 58.2 percent of its attempts versus Duke.
The Wolfpack shot 51.0 percent in two games against the Yellow Jackets last season. N.C. State leads the series 50-34.