N.C. State Uses Threes to Topple No. 1
North Carolina State’s stock rose tenfold Wednesday night.
The Wolfpack, which dropped to the depths of the Atlantic Coast Conference recently after the ouster of the late Jim Valvano and ensuing probation, upset No. 1 North Carolina, 80-70, behind a barrage of three-point baskets.
Second-ranked UCLA, which defeated North Carolina State, 88-80 on Dec. 28, probably will move to the top spot if it defeats Oregon tonight and Oregon State on Saturday.
“We were wanting to show we can compete in this league again,” said Wolfpack Coach Les Robinson, who endured criticism after the school had three consecutive losing seasons for the first time in ACC history. “Everybody knows the trail we’ve been down and the black eyes we’ve had and the bruises and the bumps.
“We were like a stock that was at 80 and went to 20,” added Robinson, who is coming off consecutive 19-loss seasons. “We’re building back up little by little.”
Lakista McCuller was the Wolfpack hero down the stretch, making three three-point shots in the final 5:04 after North Carolina State had missed eight in a row from long range. The Wolfpack made 14 of 38 three-point shots in the ACC opener for both teams.
“I knew it was going to come. We have too many great shooters,” McCuller said of the misses. “You are going to miss shots, you’re not going to make all of them.”
The Wolfpack (8-2) last beat a top-ranked team on Feb. 23, 1986, topping North Carolina, 76-65, in Reynolds Coliseum, where Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith is now 17-17.
“You go into the other guy’s gym and they give a gung-ho effort,” Smith said. “They have improved so much since last year.”
McCuller, who scored 24 points, made his key baskets after North Carolina pulled within 60-59 as the game saw 11 lead changes and six ties.
North Carolina (9-1) did tie the score, 66-66, with 2:34 left after two of McCuller’s three long shots, but he made another one 15 seconds later to give the Wolfpack the lead for good and thousands of fans stormed the court when the game ended.
Jerry Stackhouse led North Carolina with 24 points.
“It just wasn’t there for us tonight,” said Stackhouse, who also had 12 rebounds and three blocks. “I don’t think we played bad but I don’t think we played as well as we could have.
“We definitely didn’t defend the three as well as we could have. That was the equalizer for them.”
The Tar Heels, who made only two of 15 three-point shots, couldn’t overcome the loss of starting guard Dante Calabria, who sat out the game because of a sprained right ankle.