It does not have to be pretty. But the team that made the “Survive and Advance” moniker famous failed to do that.
NC State had an eight-point lead with about two minutes left and proceeded to miss free throw after free throw, leaving the door open for Saint Louis. The Billikens took advantage.
Then in the overtime period, the Wolfpack’s best player drew an and-1 after a steal to give his team a chance to tie the game. He proceeded to miss the game-tying free throw and fouled out on an ensuing possession. NC State improbably fell 83-80 to Saint Louis in overtime.
The Billikens got the lead to within one point with 28.1 seconds left when T.J. Warren split a pair of free throws. Jordair Jett tied the game and drew a foul with 18.8 seconds left. He missed the free throw giving NC State one last chance.
NC State was cruising along with a comfortable lead before Saint Louis put on the pressure and sent NC State to the line to ice the game.
Jett scored 18 points, with 17 coming in the second half and overtime. Rob Loe had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Billikens.
The Billikens missed their share of free throws but pushed the pace late and pressured the Wolfpack into turnovers and missed free throws. They thrived at the end while the Wolfpack were tentative and scared.
Jordair Jett is not hard to miss on a basketball floor. Despite his 5-foot-9, 165-pound frame, Jett was a bull getting to the basket in the second half, where he scored all but one of his points in the second half and overtime. The dread locks were waving in the wind as he blew past defenders. The biggest moment came with 18 seconds left when he rushed past his defender and got to the rim for a layup, drawing the foul and tying the game in the process. He missed the go-ahead free throw however.
Not to be outdone, T.J. Warren stole an inbounds pass after a made basket and his team down three points. He made a tough layup and drew the foul for a three-point opportunity and a chance to tie the game with 37.9 seconds left. If I were not so infuriated with the awful free throw shooting, I would be happy with this scoring battle in the second half. Warren, of course, missed the free throw.
Xs and Os
It is no secret that the trend in basketball is to spread the floor and try to take 3-pointers. That is the most efficient way to score. NC State was a model of that efficiency throughout. With each Saint Louis brick and turnover, NC State pushed the pace and got into the open floor. They spread the floor using some timely shooting from Ralston Turner, Desmond Lee and T.J. Warren. Saint Louis was scrambling the rest of the way trying to catch up as NC State’s defense was able to settle in.
“We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to close the game out. We missed a lot of clutch foul shots. In overtime, they just steamrolled us. We couldn’t keep up. We missed a lot of foul shots, but that is just how the season ended.”
-NC State center Jordan Vendenberg
“We all came together and said this is it. This is it. All or nothing. We just had to stick together, come closer and fight it off.”
-Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett
–Saint Louis could probably look to free throw shooting as a reason why the team is heading home early from the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens made just 12 of their 26 free throws in the game. That is simply shooting yourself in the foot.
–NC State could look to the foul line too. The Wolfpack missed 12 free throws in the final five minutes of regulation ushering the Billikens back into the game after it was all but over. NC State shot 20 of 37 from the foul line in the second half. That is a lot of points to leave on the board in an overtime game . . . especially when you are playing with a lead.
–T.J. Warren scored 28 points for the Wolfpack, pulling up for jumpers and getting out on the break off Billikens miscues. Ralston Turner scored 16 points in support. Warren though missed eight of his 14 free throws. That is the ball game.