ATLANTA — Just three days after falling to ninth place in the ACC, Trevor Lacey knew North Carolina State couldn't afford a loss to struggling Georgia Tech.
"It was very important," Lacey said. "We're just trying to turn it around and get this winning spirit back under us, build on it and keep moving forward."
Lacey scored 19 points and hit a straightaway 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer to help N.C. State snap a three-game losing streak and beat Georgia Tech 81-80 on Saturday.
Anthony "Cat" Barber played the entire game and finished with 23 points and Kyle Washington added 14 points as the Wolfpack (14-9, 5-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for just the second time in six games.
Quinton Stephens missed two free throws with 4.7 seconds remaining that would've given Georgia Tech a four-point lead, but Cody Martin grabbed a defensive rebound and passed up court to a racing Lacey, who stopped short of the 3-point line to hit the winner.
"That was a good decision by Cody to not just bring it up himself or heave one from 80 feet, which sometimes freshmen might do," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "It worked out good for us."
Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 23 points, Charles Mitchell had 18 points and Travis Jorgenson 14 for Georgia Tech (10-11, 1-8).
The Yellow Jackets led by four with 19 seconds remaining, but Lacey hit a layup to make it 80-78 and then closed with flurry.
Georgia Tech, which was coming off a surprisingly easy 20-point win at Miami, trailed by 14 points five times in the first half, taking their first lead when Jorgenson's layup made it 51-49 with 10:35 left in regulation.
In the closing seconds of regulation, Georges-Hunt had two chances to win it but missed a runner with 4.7 seconds remaining and was called for charging.
Lacey's desperation 3 from just inside the half-court line bounced off the rim as the regulation buzzer sounded.
The Wolfpack were outrebounded 49-31, but they had just eight turnovers and finished with five more assists than the Jackets.
Georgia Tech closed within six in the first half after Demarco Cox hit a pair of free throws at the 2:17 mark.
Barber's straightaway 3 at the halftime buzzer put N.C. State up 40-31.
For Lacey, the final shot helped compensate for a 3 he hit last month at home against Wofford that was discounted after officials watched a replay.
Not this time.
CHANCE TO SHINE
After going a combined 3 for 14 in the Wolfpack's last two games — home losses to Notre Dame and Clemson — Anthony "Cat" Barber returned to the starting lineup. He hit six of his first eight shots from the field and finished 9 for 12.
Barber was thrilled that coach Mark Gottfried let him play the full 45 minutes and that he finished with seven assists and one turnover.
"We had a team meeting and discussed a whole lot of things that we needed from each other," he said. "My team felt I needed to step and score the ball more for us to win."
N.C. State: Abdul-Malik Abu has fouled out in two of the last three games. When he picked up his fourth foul with 17:45 remaining, his team leading by nine. When he returned almost 9 minutes later, the Wolfpack were down 56-52. He missed three free throws of four and Tech led 62-58. Gottfried stamped his feet hard in frustration with the freshman when Abu fouled out at the 2:16 mark.
Georgia Tech: Seven of the Jackets' eight ACC losses have been by seven points or less. ... Coach Brian Gregory dropped to 17-44 in the league.
"We have to keep plugging away," Gregory said. "I believe in what we do. Our guys believe in what we do. It's put us in the position in nine of the games to win seven of them."
N.C. State: Visits Wake Forest on Tuesday.
Georgia Tech: Visits No. 4 Duke on Wednesday.