Columbus, Ohio • It’s been a long time since North Carolina State was mentioned in the same breath with the elite programs in the nation — let alone its own state.
Now, a new coach and a new attitude have the Wolfpack faithful harkening back to the glory days of David Thompson and Jim Valvano.
Lorenzo Brown hit three free throws in the final 10.6 seconds and North Carolina State returned to the round of 16 with a 66-63 upset of third-seeded Georgetown in the NCAA tournament on Sunday.
"When I went to Alabama as the head coach at the age of 33, John Wooden told me one time, he said, ‘Coach, don’t give them too much too fast. They might start expecting that every year,’" first-year Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said with a grin.
Then, with impeccable timing, he added: "Well, we failed in that category already."
The Wolfpack (24-12) will play Purdue or Kansas on Friday in St. Louis.
A lowly 11th seed coming in, they had to survive a furious comeback by the Hoyas (24-9) that ended when Jason Clark’s hurried 3-point attempt from the right wing was off the mark at the buzzer.
"We pushed the ball up the court, tried to get a last shot," Clark said, his eyes brimming with tears. "I felt like it had a chance, but it didn’t."
It’s a return to the big stage for a program that has been lost in the rather large shadows cast by neighboring powers Duke and North Carolina. The Wolfpack won national titles in 1974 with Thompson and in 1983 on Lorenzo Charles’ dramatic last-second putback of Dereck Whittenburg’s wild shot, leading to coach Valvano’s memorable celebration.
But maybe the new Wolfpack have turned a corner.
"We always talk about how we have such a great history at NC State," Gottfried said. "But it’s also time to build some new history."
C.J. Williams, Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie each had 14 points, and Brown added 12 for the Wolfpack, who earned their first trip to the round of 16 since 2005.
The Wolfpack’s defense spurred a 12-0 first-half run that included seven points by Williams and helped turn an eight-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead.
They pushed the advantage to 11 in the second half before Georgetown (24-9), despite deep foul trouble for center and top assist man Henry Sims, came clawing back.
The Hoyas, riding the shooting of Hollis Thompson, who had 23 points, drew to 63-61 before freshman Otto Porter missed a 15-foot jumper under pressure with 14 seconds left.
Brown, a 74-percent shooter at the line, made two foul shots with 10.6 seconds left for a 65-61 lead. Clark, who finished with 10 points, then went the length of the court for a layup before Brown was fouled again with 4.6 seconds left. He hit the first but missed the second, and the Hoyas raced down court for a potential tying 3.
They got a great look, with Clark, defended by Williams, stopping and getting off a rushed shot that was wide of the mark.
"I was just praying it wasn’t going in," Williams said. And it didn’t.
It set off a wild celebration among the Wolfpack players. Three teammates hefted Brown to their shoulders and carried him across the floor, while guard Alex Johnson popped his jersey and yelled to the roaring North Carolina State faithful, "We back baby! We’re going to the Sweet 16!"Next Page >
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