Sweet 16 for Wolfpack and Tar Heels

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Submitted: Mon, 03/19/2012 - 1:28am
Updated: Mon, 03/19/2012 - 6:43pm

COLUMBUS, OH (AP) — Lorenzo Brown hit three free throws in the final 10.6 seconds and North Carolina State conjured up its glorious tradition with a 66-63 upset of third-seeded Georgetown in a Midwest Regional on Sunday.

The Wolfpack (24-12) advance to play Kansas on Friday in St. Louis.

A lowly 11th seed coming in, they had to survive a furious comeback by the Hoyas (24-9) and only were assured of the win when Jason Clark’s hurried 3-point attempt from the right wing was off the mark at the buzzer.

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.

Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas with 23 points.

Brown, a 74-percent shooter at the line, made both ends of a bonus with 10.6 seconds left for a 65-61 lead. After Clark, who finished with 10 points, raced the length of the court for a layup to cut the lead to two, Brown was fouled again with 4.6 seconds left. He hit the first but missed the second, with the Hoyas racing downcourt for a potential tying 3.

They got a great look, with Clark, defended by C.J. Williams, stopping and getting off a rushed shot that was wide of the mark.

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!”

It’s a return to the big stage for a program that has been lost in the shadows while the spotlight shifted to neighboring powers Duke and North Carolina. The Wolfpack won national titles in 1974 and 1983 but haven’t been a national contender in years.

But that might all be changing.

With no player on the roster with NCAA experience, the Wolfpack have followed the lead of their first-year coach, Mark Gottfried. Time and again they’ve said no one believes in them more or instills more confidence in them than Gottfried, one of seven first-year coaches in the tournament who went to the regional semifinals three times while playing at Alabama.

The Wolfpack maintained the momentum after swooping back from a nine-point deficit to take a three-point lead at the break.

Supported by fans holding up signs that said “We Still Hungry” and “Welcome to our State,” they expanded the lead to 43-32 when Leslie rebounded his own missed free throw and leaned in for a follow with 14:32 left.

The Hoyas found a way to get back in it, though. They switched to a trapping half-court zone which seemed to reinvigorate them. Thompson scored nine points in a row for Georgetown, including all the points in a 7-0 run that drew the Hoyas to 45-41.

A Thompson 3 further cut the gap to 50-47 before the teams traded baskets. Leslie – always in the midst of everything for the Wolfpack – hit two foul shots with 4:46 left to expand the lead to five.

After a Hoya free throw, Wood set up on the left elbow and banged in a 3 that he saw swish through the net as he lay on the court. Nearby, Georgetown’s Greg Whittington threw up his hands in disgust as the shot fell despite skintight defense.

Brown then hit a teardrop from 10 feet out on the left baseline and later added two free throws to make it 61-54 with 1:11 left to set up the wild finish.

It was another bitter disappointment for the Hoyas. They were knocked out in their first games the last two tournaments and the players said they had finally shed the stigma of those defeats with a 74-59 victory over Belmont on Friday.

But in a close game – and with a nine-point lead late in the half – they lost their mojo and never got it back despite a strong effort.

North Carolina State had reversed an eight-point deficit by running off 12 points in a row, seven of them by Williams.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


GREENSBORO, NC (AP) — John Henson proved he’s healthy enough to help North Carolina’s latest push for the Final Four. It remains to be seen if Kendall Marshall will be able to help the Tar Heels.

Henson had 13 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in his return from a wrist injury, but Marshall broke a bone in his right wrist during the second half of North Carolina’s 87-73 victory over Creighton in the third round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday.

Coach Roy Williams confirmed the injury after the game, and said he would talk to Marshall and his parents about his status Sunday night. The point guard still finished with 18 points and 11 assists.

North Carolina got off to a fast start and built a 15-point lead in the first half, then kept control and pushed the margin to 19 after the break on the way to its second straight double-digit victory in the Midwest Regional. The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-5) reached the round of 16 for a record 25th time.

Doug McDermott scored 20 points for the eight-seeded Bluejays (29-6), who shot 41 percent and couldn’t keep up with the hot-shooting Tar Heels.

Henson had missed the last three games after spraining his left wrist during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament when he fell to the court while being fouled. His return drew a roar from the home-state fans filling the Greensboro Coliseum, both when he jogged out with his teammates for pregame warmups and when he was introduced during the starting lineups.

Most of the time, Henson looked like his old self, knocking down midrange jumpers or using his long frame to snatch rebounds or swat shots. He drew a technical foul in the first half when he got angry and started jawing with a Creighton defender who had chopped at the ball in Henson’s hands in the paint. He also had a moment when he cringed after taking a blow to the hands on a foul, which forced Williams to pull him briefly in the first half.

With Henson’s return, the Tar Heels appeared to be getting their team together in time for a trip to the regional semifinals in St. Louis. Now they will have to wait and see if Marshall will be available.

Marshall’s injury overshadowed Henson’s return and the reunion of McDermott and UNC’s Harrison Barnes, who teamed together to lead Ames High School in Iowa to consecutive state championships and unbeaten seasons. McDermott came in averaging about 23 points and eight rebounds, while Barnes was leading the Tar Heels in scoring at about 17 per game.

That matchup never materialized, with Henson and freshman James Michael McAdoo getting most of the defensive work against McDermott. Barnes finished with 17 points on 7-for-19 shooting, including back-to-back 3-pointers to turn away Creighton’s final push after the Bluejays had closed within 12 with about 5 1/2 minutes left.

Creighton came in leading the country with a 50.7 percent shooting average, but it couldn’t figure out a way to put the on-the-attack Tar Heels on the defensive.

North Carolina buried shot after shot in the first half to build a 39-24 lead on Barnes’ 3-pointer with 5 1/2 minutes left. UNC led by eight at half, but Creighton never got closer after the break.

Reggie Bullock added 13 points and eight rebounds for the Tar Heels, including three 3-pointers. The Tar Heels hit 14 of their first 19 shots and finished at 51 percent for the game.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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