WORCESTER, Mass. – Julius Hodge (search) scored on a slashing drive through the lane with 4.3 seconds left to break a 62-all tie and send North Carolina State (search) past second-seeded Connecticut 65-62 Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina State (21-13), the 10th seed in the Syracuse Regional (search), advances to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1989 and will play the winner of Bucknell-Wisconsin.
Hodge shouted to his fans at the buzzer, saying he knew this would happen all along: North Carolina State was heading to the round of 16, and the defending champion was knocked out — again.
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No team has repeated since Duke in 1991-92, but the defending national champion Huskies (23-8) seemed almost a lock to at least move past the second round. They went into the game 27-0 against teams seeded sixth or lower in the tournament. And in 19 years under coach Jim Calhoun, they were 23-2 in the first two rounds of the tournament, reaching the regional semifinals 13 times.
The loss also was a setback for the Big East conference, which has lost four teams so far, including a No. 2 seed and two No. 4 seeds.
Hodge, who yelled, "I told you! I told you!" to Wolfpack fans after the buzzer sounded, was fouled by Ed Nelson on his drive and completed the three-point play. When Marcus Williams' desperation 3 at the buzzer fell short, the Wolfpack had its biggest win in 16 years.
Hodge finished with 17 points and six assists, Cameron Bennerman had his second straight solid game with 15 points, Ilian Evtimov had 11 before fouling out with 2:16 left, and Andrew Brackman had 10 points.
Williams led the Huskies with a career-high 22 points, and Charlie Villanueva had 16 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Rudy Gay, who was averaging 12 points, had early foul trouble and finished with only four points. Long-range ace Rashad Anderson made only 1-of-5 3-pointers and finished with five points, and Josh Boone had four.
N.C. State's deliberate offense thwarted the Huskies from running their uptempo game. UConn was unable to connect from the outside — it was 2-for-14 on 3-pointers, making both in the first half — so it was in trouble when Bennerman hit a 3 to give the Wolfpack a 56-45 lead with 5:10 left.
But UConn had plenty of fight left. Nelson hit a jumper in the lane, and Villanueva's three-point play with 3:49 left moved UConn within 57-52.
Williams, playing on a tender ankle he hurt in UConn's first-round win over Central Florida, then fed Boone for an alley-oop dunk as UConn closed to 57-54 with 2:56 left.
Hodge took advantage of a screen by Jordan Collins and scored on a layup at 1:52. Nelson hit two free throws, the second coming after a lane violation by N.C. State, to narrow the Wolfpack's lead to 59-58 just eight seconds later, and a layin by Villanueva tied it at 62 with 15.8 seconds left.
N.C. State, aware of the Huskies' ability to block and alter shots, missed five layups in the first half. The Wolfpack kept the game close by going 5-for-10 on 3-pointers and forcing the Huskies into 11 turnovers.
Nonetheless, UConn took a 29-25 lead into the break.