Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First No. 1 Sent Packing Wolfpack Play Big, Surprise the Wildcats in Third Round North Carolina 71, Villanova 68

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First No. 1 Sent Packing Wolfpack Play Big, Surprise the Wildcats in Third Round North Carolina 71, Villanova 68

Article excerpt

North Carolina State has been led this season by its strong backcourt, but the Wolfpack used some old-fashioned, big-boy basketball to send home a top seed for the first time in the 2015 NCAA tournament.

The eighth-seeded Wolfpack beat No. 1 Villanova, 71-68, Saturday night in an East Region third-round game at Consol Energy Center, propelling them into the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in program history.

Villanova coach Jay Wright said Friday that while North Carolina State is usually led by its guard trio of Anthony "Cat" Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, he was most concerned about the play of the Wolfpack's young big men, who have struggled at times this year but stepped up big Thursday night against LSU in the second round.

Sure enough, it was the forwards who ended up doing a lot of the dirty work for the Wolfpack. The guards had their moments, but North Carolina State outscored Villanova, 34-14, in the paint and outrebounded the Wildcats, 45-32.

"In some ways we did what we wanted to do defensively, but those forwards stepped up and were a big difference," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

Freshman forward Abdul-Malik Abu had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and fellow big man Lennard Freeman added 11 points and 12 boards.

"It's just a mindset to go in there," Abu said. "Coach always inspires us to be the best we can be and be your best when the best is needed."

Villanova slowly chipped away at North Carolina State's lead in the second half, and got it down to two points when a 3-pointer from Darrun Hilliard made it 67-65 with 41.1 seconds to play.

An errant pass from Lacey to Desmond Lee with 36.8 seconds left gave the ball back to Villanova with the chance to tie the score or take the lead.

Dylan Ennis' 3-pointer clanked off the rim, and Barber grabbed the rebound for North Carolina State.

Barber, who picked up his third foul early in the second half, finished with 13 points.

"It seems like that always happens with us going down the stretch," Lacey said. "I threw the ball away like that against Notre Dame. We've been there before. Coach made sure that nobody panicked and we let that play go."

The Wolfpack jumped to an early first-half advantage thanks largely to Villanova's inability to convert shots, particularly those close to the rim. …

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