Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After cruising to their second-round win, the top-seeded Villanova Wildcats are expected to face a much tougher challenge in round three when they tangle with the eighth-seeded NC State Wolfpack in East Regional action at Consol Energy Center on Saturday night.
NC State stunned LSU in Thursday's second round, getting a last-second shot from BeeJay Anya to fall through to give the Wolfpack a 66-65 come-from-behind victory. As a result, coach Mark Gottfried's club improved to 21-13 on the season and 36-24 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. It was also the fourth victory for the Pack in the last five games. NC State, which is appearing in its 26th Big Dance, has a pair of national titles to its credit (1974 and 1983).
The road to victory was much easier for Villanova in its first test of the tournament, as it routed fellow Keystone State school Lafayette on Thursday night, 93-52. The Wildcats, who captured both the Big East's regular-season and conference tournament titles for the first time in school history, have won a school-record 16 consecutive games and are an impressive 33-2 on the season. VU is 51-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, and is seeking a return to grace 30 years after winning its lone national championship with a shocking win over Georgetown in the 1985 finale.
NC State owns a 12-10 lead in the all-time series with Villanova, but this is only the second meeting between the two since 1973. In 2008, The Wolfpack claimed their fourth straight win over the Wildcats with a 69-68 decision in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Florida.
Trailing LSU by double digits at halftime, NC State refused to quit and came storming all the way back to win thanks to a stellar defensive effort that limited the Tigers to 29.2 percent field goal efficiency over the final 20 minutes. The Wolfpack got 17 points from Anthony Barber, 13 from Abdul-Malik Abu, and 10 from former Tiger Ralston Turner. Trevor Lacey, who leads the team on the season with more than 15 ppg, nearly joined them in double figures, as he finished with nine points to go with his team-high nine rebounds. NCSU went just 5-of-24 from 3-point range, and was outscored in the paint, 34-26. Both of those trends would need to turn around in a hurry if the team has any shot of upsetting the Wildcats.
Villanova led from start to finish in Thursday's clash with Lafayette, as each of the five starters and six players in all scored in double figures. Dylan Ennis paced the club with 16 points, while Daniel Ochefu came close to logging a double-double by netting 14 points and grabbing nine boards. Ryan Arcidiacono hit for 13 points and dished out six assists, and he helped the Wildcats shoot a season-high 63.2 percent from the field, which included an 11-of-22 showing beyond the arc. Lafayette came into the contest as the more feared 3-point shooting team, but the Leopards were held to just 4-of-18 success out on the perimeter in a game in which they were severely overmatched.