ACC Basketball: Indana 86, N.C. State 75
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH — Recent Indiana teams might have folded once they fell behind late on an Atlantic Coast Conference team’s home floor.
Not these Hoosiers.
Jordan Hulls scored a season-high 20 points and hit a momentum-shifting 3-pointer in the final 2 minutes of Indiana’s 86-75 victory over North Carolina State on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Freshman Cody Zeller finished with 19 points for the Hoosiers (7-0). The Big Ten’s most accurate shooting team passed its toughest test to date by shooting 50 percent (30 of 60) and hitting seven 3s. Indiana has won all seven games by double figures — with the previous six coming by at least 16.
“They came back and battled and fought,” coach Tom Crean said. “So they really earned it. It was a hard-fought victory that every one of those young men earned, they deserved and it’s something for them to build on.”
Last year’s team also started 6-0 with a series of lopsided wins before losing at Boston College in the made-for-TV interconference affair. That marked the first of a series of losses that ultimately left them out of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year under Crean.
It looked like the Hoosiers might be in trouble again when N.C. State (5-2) pulled within 76-75 when C.J. Williams’ layup attempt was goaltended with 2:03 left. The Hoosiers ran some clock before Hulls swished a 3 with roughly 11/2 minutes remaining and the shot clock about to expire.
“They went under the screen, backed off, and I just pulled the trigger,” Hulls said. “Fortunately, it went in, and we needed that spark right there.”
N.C. State didn’t score — much less get within one possession — the rest of the way.
“That’s the tough part — we’ve got to play the entire 40 minutes,” Williams said. “We kind of let down for a little while, and that hurt us.”
Lorenzo Brown scored 19 points and Indiana native Scott Wood added 16 before fouling out for the Wolfpack (5-2). C.J. Leslie had 10 points and 11 rebounds while DeShawn Painter added 10 points.
N.C. State made its first 14 free throws and had a 40-37 rebounding advantage.
“I think that’s a missed opportunity for us,” first-year Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. “We certainly had a lot of chances, no question. Our guys played very hard. I liked how we competed. But I thought we had a stretch there from about the 61/2-minute mark to the 3-minute mark where we had a lot of opportunities and couldn’t capitalize on them.”
There were six ties and three lead changes in the second half, and neither team led by more than four in the final 20 minutes before the Wolfpack put together an impressive sequence with about 8 minutes remaining.
Leslie blocked Verdell Jones’ layup and Wood knocked down a 3 in transition to put N.C. State up 61-56. The Wolfpack followed with a stop and newcomer Alex Johnson delivered a layup that pushed the lead to 63-56.
The Hoosiers used a late, Zeller-fueled 20-7 run to erase that deficit. The freshman had eight points during the burst, and Indiana hit 9 of 10 free throws during the run and went up 76-70.
Before the Hoosiers had made their decisive run, Zeller’s parents had already left the RBC Center to make the short drive west to Chapel Hill — where Cody’s older brother Tyler and No. 5 North Carolina were playing No. 9 Wisconsin.