Quick hits and notes from NC State's last-second 58-57 over South Florida in front of 3,502 fans at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Play of the game
With 11.2 seconds left in the game and six seconds remaining on the shot clock, NC State inbounded the ball underneath their own basket. However, the pass sailed long over the head of freshman wing Scott Wood, who had to retrieve it on the other side of the half court line. Wood though did not panic, and he found a wide open freshman power forward Richard Howell under the basket for the go-ahead lay-up. The problem? The clock did not start. Officials had to review the play and somehow determined that despite 4.2 seconds going off the clock, there was eight seconds remaining when Howell's shot went through.
South Florida went to its star, junior Dominique Jones, for the last shot, but Jones was double-teamed as he approached the three-point line and had to pass it off. Sophomore post player Augustus Gilchrist's 15-foot jumper was blocked by Howell and time expired.
Player of the game
Senior forward Dennis Horner put a miserable ACC Tournament performance behind him by setting a new career-high with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, making 2 of 6 three-pointers, and adding six rebounds. His previous career-high had been 23 points set earlier this year when the Pack knocked off Elon Dec. 17. The 10 made field goals matched his career high he also set against Elon.
Horner had scored just 16 total points in three games in Greensboro during the ACC Tournament, making just 4 of 21 shots and 1 of 12 three-pointers. Against South Florida, Horner scored State's first 12 points.
The Pack won despite not getting a single point from Wood, his first scoreless performance of his career. Wood played just 24 minutes after picking up two early fouls and missed all three shot attempts, including a pair of three-pointers. He did however tie for a game-high seven rebounds, which matched his career-high he had against Florida State Jan. 12.
NC State also won despite a below-average performance from junior post player Tracy Smith, who fouled out for just the second time this year after scoring 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting and getting just four rebounds.
The Pack won despite just getting scoring from five players. Howell had nine points while junior point guard Javier Gonzalez added six and redshirt sophomore forward Johnny Thomas four. Wood and sophomores C.J. Williams and Julius Mays did not score. That's only the second time this year State had just five players score. The other time was a 65-53 loss to Northwestern Dec. 1.
Jones carries South Florida
A quick glance through South Florida's game notes gives an appreciation how big Jones is at South Florida. He has several pages dedicated to his accolades and top performances. Jones showed NC State fans why he has the hype when he scored 24 points on 7-of-16 shooting, making 2 of 6 three-pointers. He also had a game-high three steals.
But in one area, Jones really struggled and it may have cost his team a chance to win the game. He shot just 8 of 15 from the free throw line. Jones entered the game a 75.3 percent shooter at the line, and that was no fluke. He attempted an amazing 267 free throws this year, a new school record and 15 more than any ACC player this season. The seven missed free throws was a season-high for Jones.
Jones attempted 16 of South Florida's 40 shots, six of their nine three-pointers and 15 of their 31 free throws.
NC State is unquestionably playing the best defense in the Sidney Lowe era. The Pack held the Bulls to 42.5 percent shooting overall, 22.2 percent on three-pointers. They also held South Florida to 57 points, almost 11 below their season average. The Pack has now held their last five opponents under 60 points. That's 15 games this year that State has held their opposition to such a low point total. In Lowe's first three years, they never did that more than seven times in a season and had a total of 18 games combined in those seasons the opponent was under 60 points.
What the win means
NC State improves to 20-15 overall for their second 20-win season under Lowe. The Pack went 20-16 in Lowe's first year. NC State will face UAB in the second round of the NIT. NC State is expected to travel straight from Tampa to Birmingham for the game since the school is on spring break. Tip-off will be Saturday at a time to be determined.
Since NC State is the lowest seed remaining in their bracket, the Pack will not be hosting an NIT game this year. There is still a chance they will play in the area however. If State beats UAB and UNC upsets top-seeded Mississippi State on the road Saturday, the two teams would meet in Chapel Hill with a trip to Madison Square Garden and the semifinals of the NIT on the line.
South Florida ends their year 20-13 overall. This was only the second time the schools played each other, and the Pack have won both times. NC State improved to 16-12 all-time in NIT games, and under Lowe State is now 3-1 in the event. South Florida is 4-8 in the tournament.
Other stats of note
- NC State outscored South Florida in the paint 30-24.
- The Pack had a 36-26 rebounding edge, 10-3 on the offensive glass, and had a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points.
- NC State had 14 turnovers compared to just 10 for South Florida, and the Bulls had a 15-14 edge in points off turnovers.
- There was not many transition opportunities in this game. NC State scored the only two fast break points recorded. The Pack had just three steals, tying for the third fewest in a game this year.
- The Pack's bench outscored South Florida's reserves 13-11.