One No. 5 seed had already gone down by the time St. Louis tipped off against 12th-seeded North Carolina State in Orlando on Friday night and for most of the evening it seemed sure the Billikens would become the second to fall.
But despite being trailing by 16 points with barely more than eight minutes to go and still being down 14 with five minutes left, St. Louis stormed back to beat the Wolfpack 83-80 in overtime and advance to the Round of 32 at the Midwest Regional.
The loss ends the stellar sophomore season of N.C. State star forward T.J. Warren, who finished with 28 points -- three above his average -- but made just 6-of-14 free throws. Warren missed one with 38 seconds to go in overtime that would have tied the score at 81. The Billikens were also plagued by poor free throw shooting, making just 12-of-26 for the night, and missed two down the stretch that kept the door open for the Wolfpack. But Desmond Lee missed a layup with 13 seconds remaining and Ralston Turner missed a three to tie with three seconds left, allowing St. Louis to hold on.
N.C. State appeared to have the game in hand when Warren scored for a 55-39 lead with 8:18 left. The Wolfpack still led 60-49 with 3:09 remaining but the Billikens continued to foul and stop the clock, forcing N.C. State to win the game at the free throw line. It couldn't. The Wolfpack missed 11 of 18 from the charity stripe in the last 3:09 and St. Louis slowly crawled back. Rob Loe's three-pointer cut the lead to 65-60 with 1:23 remaining, Jake Barnett brougth the Billikens within two with another three at the 0:48 second mark, and St. Louis finally tied the score on Jordair Jett's layup with 18 seconds to go.
Jett missed a free throw for the lead, State's Tyler Lewis missed a jumper for the win at the buzzer and the two teams headed to overtime. Back-to-back baskets by Loe put SLU ahead by three halfway through the extra period and his two free throws stretched the lead to five with under a minute to go.
N.C. State's season comes to a bittersweet end. The Wolfpack were the last team chosen for the field of 68 and then beat Xavier on Tuesday in the First Four to advance to Orlando. But instead of becoming one of three No. 12 seeds to advance on Thursday -- North Dakota State upset Oklahoma in the West region -- the Wolfpack are going home.
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