When it needed it the most, the NC State defense held tight for the final 9.3 seconds to help seal a 74-73 road victory against the Pitt Panthers Wednesday afternoon inside the Petersen Events Center.
The Wolfpack shot well from the floor for the contest, finishing at 56% on 29-51 shooting while the Panthers shot an even 50% with 24-48 shooting. The Panthers would also miss nine costly free throws falling by a one-point deficit.
NC State got the start it hoped for with good shots and rebounding, building an early 18-14 lead just under halfway through the first half. The hot shooting continued as the Wolfpack used defense to get easy baskets, as a 9-2 run built the NC State lead to nine at 25-16 with 9:06 left before the break.
The Panthers settled in, connecting on four straight baskets to trim the Wolfpack lead to 36-34 with 2:05 left in the half before eventually heading into the locker room down 40-39 after trailing the majority of the half.
NC State’s start to the second half mirrored the first, as the hot shooting helped build the Wolfpack lead to four with 13:34 remaining in the game. At that point, a slew of technical fouls would rain down from the officials, with each team receiving one and Pitt receiving double technicals. A scoring drought from the Wolfpack did minimal damage as they held a 56-51 lead with 11:51 in regulation.
Leading scorer Cole Hellems picked up his fourth foul receiving a personal and technical with 7:48 remaining with the Wolfpack ahead by a slim 60-59 margin. Things remained tight down the stretch as the one-point Wolfpack lead held at 67-66 with 3:42 on the clock. Pitt would briefly go head for just the second time of the game at 71-69 with 1:49 remaining.
Trailing 72-71 with 47.3 left, Pitt turned the ball over and fouled Cam Hayes with 23 seconds on the clock. Hayes proceeded to knock down both free throws extending the Wolfpack lead to 74-71. Following an NC State timeout, Pitt’s Justin Champagnie drove inside drawing the foul from Manny Bates. Champagnie added two free throws cutting the Wolfpack lead back to one at 74-73 with 12.1 left.
With 9.3 remaining, Hayes would be called for traveling giving the Panthers the ball with a chance to win the game in the final seconds. The turnover did no harm as Pitt failed to convert on a few chances allowing the Wolfpack to escape with the one-point road victory.
Hellems paced the Wolfpack with 17 points followed by DK Funderburk with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Braxton Beverly and Hayes rounded out four Wolfpack in double figures with 12 and 11 respectively. Champagnie led the Panthers and all scorers with 18 points and one rebound short of a double-double with 9.
The Wolfpack return to the court as they travel to Winston-Salem to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons for the second time this season Saturday, February 20. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 PM inside Lawrence Joel Coliseum.