Hodge leads NC State past UConn and into Sweet 16
Worcester, MA (Sports Network) – Julius Hodge converted a three-point play
with 4.3 seconds remaining in the game and North Carolina State held on for a
65-62 upset of defending champion Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA
Tournament at the DCU Center.
The Wolfpack, seeded 10th in the Syracuse bracket, will next face the winner
of the Wisconsin/Bucknell matchup in the regional semifinals on Friday. Hodge
finished with 17 points and Cameron Bennerman ended with 15 for the Wolfpack
(21-13), who are headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989.
“We showed a lot of heart, determination, pride and love for our school,”
Hodge, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, said after the game.
Marcus Williams, whose desperation three-pointer at the buzzer fell short,
paced UConn with a career-high 22 points. Charlie Villanueva chipped in 16
points and 12 rebounds for the second-seeded Huskies (23-8), who defeated
Georgia Tech in last year’s national championship game.
Villanueva scored on a putback with 15.8 seconds remaining to tie the game,
but it was his foul at the other end that sent Hodge to the line. The Huskies,
who won the national title in both 1999 and 2004, got nine points off the
bench from Ed Nelson.
“I want to congratulate NC State,” UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said. “To Herb
(Sendek) and his entire group at NC State, they deserved to win.”
Andrew Brackman drilled a three for a 62-58 Wolfpack lead with 1:11 to play,
but two free throws by Williams made it a two-point contest. Villanueva later
collected a loose ball underneath the basket and banked it off the glass to
even the score at 62 apiece with 15.8 seconds left.
Villanueva then put his team in dire straights after fouling Hodge, who made
the layup and the ensuing free throw with 4.3 seconds on the clock for a 65-62
NC State lead. Connecticut had one final chance but Williams’ desperation
three at the buzzer caromed off the front of the rim.
“I tried to help and really thought there was an offensive foul,” a dejected
NC State is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989 and for the
fifth time in school history. The Wolfpack lost to Georgetown that year in the
East Regional, 69-61.
Jordan Collins gave the Wolfpack a 9-8 lead with a deep three-pointer, but
Villanueva countered with a trey for a two-point UConn edge. The Huskies later
extended their lead to 17-12 on a Rashad Anderson jumper with seven minutes
left in the first half, but NC State mounted a comeback and pulled within
24-22 on a Collins three with 1 1/2 minutes to go.
Connecticut, though, headed to the locker room with a 29-25 advantage.
Williams led all scorers at the half with 10 points, while Bennerman paced the
Wolfpack with eight points.
The Wolfpack overcame the four-point halftime deficit and grabbed their first
lead since early in the game at 32-31 on Bennerman’s layup. NC State later
took a 49-42 lead on Hodge’s basket with less than nine minutes to go in the
Bennerman drained a three-pointer with five minutes on the clock and NC State
owned a seemingly comfortable 56-45 advantage. UConn then scored 11 of the
next 12 points to pull within 57-56. Villanueva, who had five points in the
run, capped the surge on two free throws with 2:16 remaining.
Sunday’s game was a rematch of a 2002 second-round game in Washington, DC, won
by the Huskies. The four straight NCAA tourney appearances for NC State is the
longest streak for the program since Jim Valvano took his teams to five
straight from 1985-89.
The Huskies were aiming for their 14th trip to the Sweet 16.
NC State became just the second ACC team with a losing conference record (7-9)
to win two NCAA games. Virginia’s 1984 squad was 6-8 in the league before
winning four games to advance to the Final Four.
“I’m so happy for our guys,” Sendek said after the game. “I’m fortunate to be
around such a great group of young men. This is very special for them to win