Freshman JJ Hickson sunk two game winning free throws with under 10 seconds to play, and he blocked Toney Douglas' potential tying layup on the other end to seal the victory for the Wolfpack in Tallahassee, 69-66.
Hickson made all five of his field goal attempts in addition to his two free throw attempts, grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, and also blocked four shots to dominate the paint for NC State.
Courtney Fells' prayer was answered as his game-tying 3-pointer banked in with under a minute to go to tie the game at 66. He led the Wolfpack with 16 points.
Douglas took it hard into the lane following the Fells 3-pointer, but was swatted by Hickson. Ryan Reid fouled Hickson following a scramble for the ball, setting up the game-winning free throws.
Douglas led the 'Noles (13-8, 2-4) with 17 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Uche Echefu and Ralph Mims chipped in with 14 points and 6 rebounds each.
After jumping out to a 31-19 first half lead, the Seminoles were held scoreless for the final 5:08 allowing NC State to score the final 17 points and take a five point lead into halftime.
FSU's second leading scorer, Jason Rich, fouled out on a very questionable touch foul, finishing with just 6 points in 27 minutes.
There are a lot of things to discuss following such a close game. One that will undoubtedly be a topic will be the officiating.
The officials were consistent in calling the game very closely for the first 37 minutes—and then swallowed their whistles in the final minutes, particularly on a pair of Douglas drives to the rim.
Another topic for 'Noles fans is the questionable (at best) coaching decisions made by Leonard Hamilton. Maybe the biggest error in judgment was to run no offense over the final minute and just isolate Douglas the halfcourt, run the shotclock down to 10 and let him go to work.
It was basically a 1-on-5 game for FSU on offense to end the game. But Hamilton's biggest mistakes may have been on his use of the timeouts. First, he let the team play through a 17-0 run in the first half leaving unused timeouts heading into the locker room.
Then he burns the team's final timeout of the second half with NC State shooting free throws, and the crowd as loud as it had been all day. Not only did he quiet the home crowd and lose some of the momentum his team had at the moment, he didn't leave himself with one to call when the 'Noles got the ball back down three points with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Instead of being able to draw up a play, they were left with a desperation halfcourt shot from Douglas that would not fall. Frustrating game for Seminole fans, but a big win for the NC State Wolfpack.
Not much of a highlight for me, watching my team blow a 12-point lead at home against a team they probably should've beat. The positives I take out of this have to be the outside shooting of Uche Echefu and the way Toney Douglas kept the team in the game for much of the second half.
Echefu has been playing well of late, but doing most of his work inside. With Hickson dominating the paint today, Echefu was forced to take his game outside, and he did so knocking down two 3-pointers and a pair of long two-pointers. Free Limited Edition Snickers Charged bars for all fans in attendance wasn't too bad either, I suppose.
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