Rodney Monroe produced a string of miraculous shots in a magical 40-point performance to give North Carolina State a 102-96 double-overtime victory over Iowa in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. East Regional Sunday.
In the final four seconds of both regulation and the first overtime, Monroe, a sophomore guard, made baseline jump shots under intense pressure to keep the Wolfpack alive.
It took another three-pointer and a pair of free throws by Monroe to provide his team with a decisive 98-92 lead with 36 seconds left in the second overtime.
“I’ve always been a very confident shooter and it’s a lot easier when your coach gives you the green light,” Monroe said.
Monroe’s amazing shooting came as no surprise to Coach Jim Valvano, who must now prepare his Wolfpack to play Georgetown in the third round Friday at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.
In fact, Valvano is so confident in Monroe’s ability, that he gave Iowa the opportunity to grab the lead with 21 seconds left in regulation.
He ordered Monroe to foul freshman guard Brian Garner, a 41% free-throw shooter. Garner made both shots of the one-and-one, but that was simply playing into Monroe’s hands.
“I’ve got supreme confidence in Rodney’s shooting ability,” Valvano said. “He’s one of those exceptional shooters, that when he misses, you’re surprised, and almost angry.”
For the two critical shots that kept the game going, Valvano designed pick-and-roll plays, setting up Monroe on the right side and having him spring loose off screens by Chris Corchiani and Avie Lester.
Everyone in the capacity crowd of 12,106, and, most of all, Iowa Coach Tom Davis, knew that Monroe would take the last shot.
“We tried everything to stop him, but nothing worked,” said Davis, who had not previously lost a first- or second-round game in nine NCAA appearances with Boston College and Iowa.
“We tried man-to-man coverage on Monroe with B.J. Armstrong and later Roy Marble,” Davis said.
“We also used a zone, and triangle-and-two against him. But, he is so quick with, and without, the ball. We knew he was going to get it in the last seconds of regulation and the first overtime, but they were still able to get the ball in his hands, and we just couldn’t stop him.”
Both Marble (24 points) and Armstrong (20), who are considered among the best backcourt combinations in the nation, marveled at Monroe’s performance.
“I’ve never seen anyone shoot the ball like that,” Marble said. “One time, I even jumped up and ticked the ball and it still went in. He just scored at will.”
Said Armstrong: “He just shot the lights out. Both times I knew he was going to take it to the basket, but Corchiani managed to get the ball in his hands. I didn’t want to foul him and give him a chance at a three-point shot, but I stayed right on top of him, and he just made two really tough shots.”
Iowa displayed considerable pluck in fighting back from an early 25-6 deficit after the Wolfpack ran off 19 straight points.
The Hawkeyes, relying heavily on the inside power moves of senior forward Ed Horton, who scored a career-high 32 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds, rallied to pull even at halftime, 41-41.
“A lot of guys were probably saying, ‘Wow, with that great Iowa comeback, N.C. State will pack it in,’ ” Valvano said. “But even though we were showing signs of fatigue, my guys kept hanging in there.”
Valvano also gambled and won by leaving Corchiani, his point guard, and forward Avie Lester in the game after they both picked up their fourth fouls early in the second half.
“What was I going to save them for?” Valvano asked. “I’d rather have them in their playing then risk us getting knocked out of the tourney.”
Iowa seemingly had the game won several times. They battled back from a five-point deficit with a seven-point spree to move ahead, 73-71 on Horton’s three-point play with 1:39 left.
Monroe tied it with a jumper in the lane. Then there was the Garner episode for another brief Iowa lead that Monroe again erased by firing a 12-footer over Armstrong.
Surprisingly, with at least three seconds on the clock, the Hawkeyes failed to call time out. And they again ignored the clock after Monroe’s tying basket in the closing seconds of the first overtime.
“Blame that on our inexperience,” Davis said. “Sometimes, it’s better to rush the ball up to midcourt, but it was difficult to read the clock and see exactly how much time was left to play. We’re just not the most savvy team in the country at this point.”
Still, the Hawkeyes helped to produce one of the NCAA tournament’s most memorable games.
“This should be like hockey or football where you can go home with a tie,” Valvano said. “No one should have to go home with a loss after a game like this.”
But Valvano must now prepare for the top-seeded Hoyas.
“I’ve already made an offer to (Princeton Coach) Pete Carril to help me in any way possible,” Valvano said with a laugh.