With 5:03 remaining in regulation a T.J. Warren layup gave NC State a 59-45 lead, and regardless of the result of Warren’s free throw to complete the three-point opportunity it seemed as if the Wolfpack were on their way to the round of 32.
Warren would miss that free throw, and unfortunately for NC State that would be a harbinger of things to come.
From that point forward the Wolfpack shot 13-for-28 from the charity stripe, blowing the 14-point lead (earlier in the half they led by 16) and ultimately losing 83-80 in overtime. Between the free throws (20-for-37 for the night) and Saint Louis making key plays late in regulation, the Wolfpack saw their season come to an end in incredibly painful fashion.
What also hurt NC State down the stretch was Warren’s inability to get the basketball, with Jordair Jett doing a good job of keeping the ACC Player of the Year from getting the basketball. Warren would ultimately foul out late in overtime, and without their star on the floor NC State needed a three-pointer from Ralston Turner to extend the game. His shot missed the mark, capping a game that will be remembered for years to come with two different viewpoints.
For Saint Louis fans, Thursday’s result will be seen as an incredible comeback with Jim Crews’ team refusing to quit. And for the NC State supporters this will likely go down as one of the more painful losses in program history, as a trip to the next round was well within their reach.
Neither team shot well from the foul line, with Saint Louis making just 12 of its 26 attempts. But in the game’s most important moments players such as Jett and Rob Loe, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, managed to take advantage of the opening afforded them by the scuffling Wolfpack.
After beating Xavier on Tuesday the Wolfpack were a team many expected to win their next game, with Warren’s ability to put points on the board being the main reason why. Saint Louis had been struggling defensively entering the NCAA tournament, and that remained the case for much of regulation.
However when the Wolfpack needed just one more basket, be it from the foul line or the field, to seal the game they couldn’t get the job done. And that’s something that will stick with NC State for quite some time.