ACC Basketball: N.C. State 62, Loyola 60
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 30, 2008
RALEIGH ó Blown double-digit leads. Poor offensive execution. A key defensive stop.
It wasn’t the formula North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe had in mind, but it was just enough for his Wolfpack to avoid an embarrassing nonconference loss Monday night.
Ben McCauley had 16 points and N.C. State forced a missed shot while protecting a one-point lead in the final seconds to hold off Loyola of Maryland 62-60, giving the Wolfpack a bounceback win from last week’s last-second loss to Marquette.
Courtney Fells added 11 points for the Wolfpack (8-2), who blew a 14-point lead in the first half then nearly squandered a 16-point lead in the final 8 1/2 minutes before surviving a tense final few minutes for the win.
It was enough to have Lowe simultaneously relieved, excited and frustrated.
“We learned an expensive lesson inexpensively,” he said. “We learned that when you get up on a ballclub, you’ve got to continue to play the same way, continue to run your offense, play defense and not venture off and start trying to do things. … I’m just thankful we were able to get out of there with a ‘W.”‘
Marquis Sullivan scored 21 points for the Greyhounds (4-8), who cut the Wolfpack’s biggest lead of the night to 61-60 on a hanging layup from Jamal Barney with 51.3 seconds left.
Then, after forcing a miss from McCauley inside and a missed tip attempt from Brandon Costner, the Greyhounds got the ball back and called timeout with 17.7 seconds left to set up a shot for the win. But when Barney drove the left side toward the goal, McCauley stepped out and forced him into a tough fadeaway shot that hit the front of the rim.
“I knew he wanted to get to the basket. He wasn’t pulling up for any shots,” McCauley said. “I wanted him to take a tough shot over top of me. I wanted to challenge it, but not foul him. If you give a player like that a standup, easy shot, they’re more times than not going to make it ó especially with momentum on their side like that.”
Fells grabbed the rebound, drawing the foul with 0.3 seconds left. He made 1 of 2 free throws, and Loyola’s final three-quarter court heave came after the horn.
At the least, it was a better finish than last week’s 68-65 loss to Marquette in which Dominic James hit the winning 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left. And the Wolfpack sure didn’t want to lose this one with trips to Florida and No. 20 Clemson in its ACC opener looming in the next two weeks.
“When it counts, we got the job done,” reserve Simon Harris said. “That’s the biggest lights-on moment I’ve seen this year. We responded well to it, stepped up to the challenge and got the stop.”