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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTS

North Carolina State Tips the Crown Off Connecticut

March 21, 2005|Matt Eagan | The Hartford Courant

WORCESTER, Mass. — As North Carolina State's Julius Hodge dribbled up the court, with the score tied and the seconds dwindling, he saw Connecticut's Rudy Gay clap twice.

Hodge took this as a challenge.

"I just said 'Let's go,' " Hodge said.

Hodge drove around a screen set at the top of the key by Jordan Collins, losing Gay, who tripped as he tried to turn the corner.

"I don't know what happened," Gay said.

Ed Nelson and Charlie Villanueva tried to close the gap, but neither was in time. Hodge scored off the glass and collided with Nelson, who did not have position, and was called for the blocking foul.

"I thought I had enough time to draw the charge," Nelson said. "That's one of those plays that is going to stick in your head: 'What if? What if?' "

Hodge scored 17 points -- including the key three-point play with 4.3 seconds left -- to lift the 10th-seeded Wolfpack to a 65-62 victory over No. 2 Connecticut, ending the Huskies' defense of their national championship, before 13,008 at the DCU Center in a NCAA tournament second-round game.

Cameron Bennerman had 15 for North Carolina State (21-13). Marcus Williams had 22 points and Villanueva had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Connecticut (23-8), which lost to a team seeded lower than No. 5 for the first time under Coach Jim Calhoun.

"I'm disgusted," Nelson said. "I got a sick feeling right now. We shouldn't have lost that game."

This was a difficult end to a difficult season for the Huskies, who led, 29-25, at halftime, but were outscored 14-6 over the first six minutes of the second half and did not lead again.

The Huskies staged a furious comeback, erasing an 11-point lead over the final five minutes to tie the game with 15.8 seconds left but could not stop Hodge at the end. They had a final chance to tie but Williams' three-point attempt at the buzzer was short.

"This is a team that has been through a lot," Villanueva said. "This is real hard to handle."

"We didn't seem to be the same the last two weeks," Calhoun said. "I'll always care greatly about this team and the season they had."

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