ATLANTA (Ticker) -- If North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek was sending his star player a message, Julius Hodge got it.
Hodge collected 22 points and eight boards off the bench as the 19th-ranked Wolfpack kept alive their hopes of an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title with a 79-69 victory over No. 20 Georgia Tech.
A front-runner for ACC Player of the Year honors, Hodge was not in the starting lineup for only the second time in his career. The junior swingman responded with his usual spirited effort as NC State (18-6, 10-3 ACC) moved within one game of first-place Duke in the conference standings.
"I just decided that I was going to go with a group who finished the game (Sunday) against Washington so strong," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. "They really played well together when Julius was in foul trouble and we wanted to start the game that way. I thought Julius would give us a spark coming in and he certainly did."
The Wolfpack took the lead for good at 61-60 when freshman Engin Atsur threw in a hook with 5:17 left. N.C. State's Ilian Evtimov made two free throws before Georgia Tech's Will Bynum countered with a jumper.
Hodge came up with a 3-pointer that triggered nine straight points. Atsur added a shot from the arc, Hodge split a pair from the line and Evtimov's two free throws made it 72-62 with 1:39 to go.
"It's hard to single out any individuals because it really does feel like a great team win," Sendek said. "Everybody just pulled his share and we are very pleased with the outcome tonight."
Georgia Tech (19-8, 6-7) dropped its second straight - both at home - after Sunday's loss to Wake Forest. B.J. Elder and Luke Schenscher each scored 16 points for the Yellow Jackets.
"Tough day out there for our guys," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "I thought our effort was very good. We forced 19 turnovers, but we just didn't execute some of the things that we typically do - making free throws, chippies. You have to give N.C. State credit."
Hodge had struggled in his career against the Yellow Jackets, shooting only 17 percent (7-of-42) in six games. He had just as many baskets on Wednesday, draining 7-of-11 shots.
"Good players are destined to have a good game if you play against a team enough times," Yellow Jackets guard Jarrett Jack said. "It was just one of those days where tonight was his night."
Scooter Sherrill scored 17 points, Atsur added 16 and Evtimov netted 14 for the Wolfpack, who shot 51 percent (22-of-43). Marcus Melvin's 14 boards helped N.C. State to a 38-24 edge on the glass.
The Wolfpack have won 13 of the last 17 meetings between the teams.