After winning their play-in game over Xavier, the NC State Wolfpack had momentum on their side and capitalized on that early in their Round of 64 matchup in the NCAA Tournament against the Saint Louis Billikens. The Wolfpack and T.J. Warren looked to be the better team on the floor for much of the game.
Holding a double-digit lead well into the second half, all the Wolfpack had to do was hold on and they’d be another step closer to making a Cinderella run in the tournament. That shouldn’t be too difficult of a task for a team that boasts one of the talented scorers in the country, right?
Apparently it was way too difficult.
NC State seemingly couldn’t do anything right down the stretch. They were taking bad shots, they looked out of rhythm on both ends of the floor, they turned the ball over, and they just seemed rattled. Nothing was more indicative of their late-game struggles than the fact that they hit only nine of their final 21 attempts from the foul line.
Make no mistake, Saint Louis deserves a ton of credit for maintaining their composure and for rushing through the door that the Wolfpack couldn’t seem to close. They fought valiantly and came up big when they needed to and when their opponents couldn’t seem to do so. However, the story of this game is undoubtedly about how NC State was in control of their own fortunes and fumbled it all away.
The Billikens will face the defending National Champion Louisville Cardinals in the Round of 32, who also found themselves in a fight in their first game of the tournament. However, the Billikens have to avoid getting a hole like they did against NC State against Louisville. The Cardinals won’t leave the door open if that happens, unlike what the Wolfpack did on Thursday.