College Basketball: Georgia Tech 74, N.C. State 65

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 6, 2007

By Charles Odum

Associated Press

ATLANTA — It appears Javaris Crittenton and his fellow Georgia Tech freshmen are rising to leadership roles, and that’s just fine with coach Paul Hewitt.

“I told Javaris ‘There’s no reason you can’t lead this team,’ ” Hewitt said.

Hewitt’s postgame words were only an affirmation for what Crittenton showed on the court by scoring 21 points, including eight in an 18-0 run in the second half, to lead Georgia Tech to a 74-65 win over North Carolina State on Tuesday night.

Crittenton, a freshman, outplayed N.C. State senior Engin Astur, who scored two points on 1-for-9 shooting and committed six turnovers.

“He’s starting to get comfortable with the leadership role,” said Hewitt of Crittenton who had combined totals of 47 points and 10 steals in Georgia Tech’s back-to-back wins over Clemson and N.C. State.

Crittenton had seven assists and three steals.

Two more freshmen joined Crittenton by scoring in double figures. Thaddeus Young scored 15 points with seven rebounds and Zach Peacock added 11.

The Wolfpack led by 15 early in the first half before the Yellow Jackets’ full-court pressure defense set the pace for the second-half comeback.

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said his players became frustrated by the physical play of Georgia Tech’s perimeter defenders.

The Yellow Jackets had 11 steals, including three by Crittenton, and forced 18 turnovers that led to 23 points.

“I didn’t like it, obviously,” Lowe said. “But you have to play the game. You have to try to play the same way. If it’s a physical game, you have to play physical.”

Hewitt, who has been begging for aggressive defense all season, said his team played its best full-court pressure “in a year and a half.”

“That’s about as encouraged as I’ve been in a long time about our basketball team,” Hewitt said.

“We’re very happy to get this win, especially in the fashion that we did. I’m glad to see us get back to playing tough, physical, energetic basketball. I can’t tell you how happy I am with how these guys played tonight.”

Georgia Tech held the Wolfpack scoreless for almost 8 minutes and without a field goal for more than 11 minutes as it turned a 56-45 deficit into a 63-56 lead.

Gavin Grant and Brandon Costner each scored 17 points for N.C. State. Ben McCauley added 16 and Courtney Fells had 13.

Georgia Tech (15-8 overall, 4-6 ACC) moved past N.C. State (13-9, 3-6) in the ACC standings.

The Wolfpack raced to an early 17-2 lead. N.C. State’s first two baskets came on 3-pointers from Grant and Fells, but it then directed its attack inside at McCauley.

N.C. State led 35-21 with 4:10 left in the first half, but Tech’s bench eventually outscored N.C. State’s reserves, 28-0.