College Sports

What a difference year makes for NC State

N.C. State's Trevor Lacey, left, congratulates BeeJay Anya after the Wolfpack’s 66-65 victory over LSU in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
N.C. State's Trevor Lacey, left, congratulates BeeJay Anya after the Wolfpack’s 66-65 victory over LSU in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. ehyman@newsobserver.com

For a few frenetic minutes on Thursday night, it was like N.C. State found a mirror universe.

It was a year ago that N.C. State gave up a double-digit lead and suffered a heart-breaking loss to Saint Louis in the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack was on the other side on Thursday night when it came back to edge Louisiana State 66-65.

The were similarities to how the two NCAA games unfolded were uncanny but with one major difference, Wolfpack senior Ralston Turner noted.

"It's crazy being on the other end this year," Turner said. "This is a whole lot better."

BeeJay Anya's left-handed hook shot with 0.1 seconds left capped the Wolfpack's second-half comeback and move them on to a Round of 32 meeting in the East Region with No. 1 Villanova on Saturday (7:10 p.m., TBS).

It was almost surreal how N.C. State's last two NCAA tournament games were cut from the script. Last year, N.C. State led by 14 points, 59-45 with 5 minutes left in regulation.

This year, the Wolfpack trailed the talented Tigers by 14 points, 62-48 with 9 minutes left.

Last year, N.C. State couldn't buy a free throw, going 9 of 21 in the last 5 minutes of regulation.

This year, LSU couldn't make a free throw, going 4 of 11 after it took a 14-point lead and missing its last six free throws. Although, the Tigers couldn’t buy a field goal, either. Their last made field goal came at the 10:26 mark in the second half. They missed their last 12 attempts.

"It's part of the game sometimes, there's not just one answer for it," N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. "I feel bad for Johnny Jones and LSU because we were in that situation last year where we couldn't hit a foul shot and put the game away."

Last year, N.C. State got a good look at the end of regulation, from the middle of the floor but not from the primary option. Tyler Lewis' jumper, from about 12 feet hit the rim and bounced out. N.C. State lost the game 83-80 in overtime.

This year, Trevor Lacey — who has been N.C. State's No. 1 end-game option — was bottled up by LSU's defense but he found Anya in the middle of the floor.

Anya took a drop a step and the spun and made a short left-handed hook shot. Anya's shot also hit the rim, kissing the front of twice, but this time the ball fell through the hoop for the Wolfpack.

"Oh, I knew it was going in at the time I shot it," Anya said with a laugh.

"I joke around with my teammates all the time, 'If you want to win, give me the ball.' Today it actually worked out, so they'll never hear the end of it from me."

Anya actually scored the last four points of the game, his only four points, and the last hook shot was N.C. State's only lead of the half.

Most of the players said they hadn't thought about the similarities to the Saint Louis loss during the game. But afterwards, they all could connect the dots.

"I remember the feeling of losing," Kyle Washington said. "I remembered that Saint Louis game. We weren't ready to feel that way again."

With a reversal from last year's heartbreaker, N.C. State didn't have to.

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