Try as they might, NC State could just never close the gap.
Eighth-seeded Seton Hall topped the No. 9 Wolfpack, 94-83, by staking itself to a lead and keeping NC State at bay throughout the day.
The Pirates never trailed and led by as many as 13 points in the second half as Kadeem Carrington had 24 points and Desi Rodriguez 18 to advance to a second-round date Saturday against the Midwest’s top seed, Kansas, in its home state.
The Wolfpack trimmed the lead to as few as three in the second half and had a fleeting moment of optimism when they got within six points with under two minutes to play, but Seton Hall always had an answer, turning them away at every turn.
What should have been the matchup of the day, NC State’s Omer Yurtseven vs. Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, never really got off the ground. Both players fouled out, but Delgado clearly had the better day with 13 points and nine rebounds to the two points and two rebounds for Yurtseven, who managed to play just 14 minutes.
NC State’s loss will overshadow a spectacular performance from senior Allerick Freeman. The Baylor transfer had 36 points on 12 of 19 shooting, including going 6 of 8 from 3-point range while playing all 40 minutes.
The Wolfpack finish 21-12 this season, having lost three of their last four games.
Seton Hall’s attention will now turn to the weekend with the Jayhawks waiting. Delgado figures to be a problem from Kansas if center Udoka Azubuike is limited with the knee injury that kept him out of the Big 12 tournament and limited him just three minutes in KU’s NCAA tournament opener against Penn. The matchup could pivot on that position with both teams strong on the perimeter and wing.
The Pirates have been solid in chasing teams off the 3-point line, which will be paramount against Kansas. The Jayhawks are reliant on taking and making a ton of 3s while Seton Hall has been successful in limiting opponents’ attempts.
Kansas’ defense hasn’t exactly been elite either, and with Seton Hall putting up 91 on NC State, Bill Self will no doubt be concerned about how his team will fare on that end of the floor this weekend.