Wolfpack Flashback: A Pair of Consolation Garden Parties

Brett Friedlander

The only Madness going on this March is taking place off the court, with the final three days of the ACC tournament and the entire NCAA tournament cancelled in response to the growing coronavirus crisis. With no actual games to report on, SI All Wolfpack is looking back in time to remember some of NC State's best postseason games from the past. The Wolfpack has played just twice on March 28, games 50 years apart that had a lot in common.

NC State has played two basketball games on this date, March 28. 

Both were played at Madison Square Garden (though different versions of the building) and both were little more than footnotes in March Madness history.

The first came in 1950 and like this season, was one of those rare occasions in which the Wolfpack -- then known as the Red Terrors -- won its final game and didn't cut down the nets as a national champion.

Two days after losing to eventual national titleist City College of New York in the semifinals of the eight-team tournament, State came back and beat Baylor 53-41 in the consolation game to finish third in the nation in its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

It was a game in which both teams shot poorly. State shot just 19.5% from the floor, going 15 of 77. Baylor wasn't much better at 26.7%, 16 of 60.

The difference came from the free throw line, where the Wolfpack went 23 of 35. The Bears, by contrast, only went to the line 20 times, making nine. 

Sam Ranzino did most of the damage, making 11 of his 15 free throws to go along with five field goals for a game-high 21 points. He was the only player on his team to score in double figures. 

Exactly a half century later, State played its other game on March 28.

This time it was in the semifinals of a consolation tournament, the NIT, and it came against ACC rival Wake Forest.

The Wolfpack has dominated the all-time series with the Deacons, winning 146 of the 252 times they've played. They split their two meetings during the regular season that year, but with a trip to the tournament final on the line, it was Wake Forest that prevailed out a 62-59 overtime victory.

Once again, State didn't shoot well -- making only 29.5% of its field goal attempts. Still, it had a chance to win a the end of regulation when Justin Gainey went to the free throw line with 8.4 seconds remaining. 

He made the first shot, but after Wake coach Dave Odom called timeout to freeze him, the senior point guard missed the second to send the game into overtime.

In the extra period, Wake's Darius Songaila scored six of his 18 points, including the go-ahead basketball with 58 seconds remaining to finish off the Wolfpack. But even though State lost, its season wasn't over.

As was the case 50 years earlier, there was still a consolation game to play at Madison Square Garden.

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