Houston, which was ranked No. 1 and featured Akeem (later Hakeem) Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, was a huge favorite in the 1983 finals against North Carolina State, a No. 6 seed that had lost 10 games.
The athletic Cougars had dumped No. 2-ranked Louisville 94-81 in the semifinals in what was seen as the pivotal Final Four game.
The Wolfpack, meanwhile, had been far from dominant in the tournament, needing two overtimes to get past first-round opponent Pepperdine, a No. 11 seed, and then winning one-point games in upsets of UNLV and Virginia, the latter featuring national player of the year Ralph Sampson.
However, the Wolfpack stayed close against Houston by slowing the pace and relying on the outside shooting of guard Dereck Whittenburg and the surprising offense of Thurl Bailey.
North Carolina State led by eight points at halftime, but a 17-2 Houston run in the second half gave the Cougars a seven-point lead. At that point, Houston coach Guy Lewis ordered the Cougars to go into a slowdown, even though they had used a fast-paced game and their athletic superiority to take the lead.
The Wolfpack caught up, and with the score tied 52-52 with 1:08 left, North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano ordered his team to foul to take advantage of the Cougars' poor free-throw shooting. Houston freshman Alvin Franklin went to the line and missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The Wolfpack held the ball for a final shot, but the play broke down, forcing Whittenburg to throw up a hurried 30-footer that was well short. However, Lorenzo Charles, who had scored just two points to that point, grabbed the air ball as it neared the rim and stuffed it home as the buzzer sounded.
The unexpected play gave North Carolina State a 54-52 victory for one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tournament history.