Richard Midgley, California's point guard from England, averted a first-round exit for the eighth-seeded Golden Bears by making a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in overtime Thursday that was decisive in a 76-74 victory over No. 9 North Carolina State in the East Regional at Ford Center.
"I guess I picked the right sport," said the 6-1 freshman, whose schoolmates in his hometown of Burgess Hill once found his choice of basketball over soccer bizarre.
Midgley's shot was set up by Cal's star forward Joe Shipp, who dished off after the Wolfpack migrated to him as he dribbled toward the basket.
"I just wanted to get the ball and make the play someway, somehow," said Shipp, who had five assists and a game-high 24 points.
Cal Coach Ben Braun said Shipp was the right person to handle the ball with time running out.
"You're not going to get a lot of better situations than that," Braun said. "He'll get a lot of attention for all the points he scores, but he does a lot of other things. He has the ability to make the team better."
North Carolina State Coach Herb Sendek called the outcome "a tough one to swallow.
"We would love to play on Saturday, but a great team made a great play," Sendek said.
For much of the game, Cal (22-8) was more poised and more aggressive underneath, getting 18 offensive rebounds to the Wolfpack's 10. The Golden Bears led 39-36 at halftime and held the lead until guard Scooter Sherrill's three-pointer pulled North Carolina State (18-13) even at 56-56 with 9:19 remaining.
Sherrill blocked Midgley's layup as regulation ended. But Midgley, whose fervor for a foreign game led him to move to California for his last two years of high school, said he was doubt-free as he released his shot. A last-second heave by Sherrill clanged off the rim.
Midgley, whose teammates buried him in an exuberant on-court pileup after the final buzzer, doesn't think his clutch play will be noticed back home. "Probably won't even make it" into the British press, he said.
That phrase was Oklahoma Coach Kelvin Sampson's, and it accurately described the beastly first half.
South Carolina State (20-11) did its best to disrupt Oklahoma (25-6), and succeeded -- for a while. The Sooners didn't make a shot until nearly five minutes had elapsed, extending a field-goal drought that started in the second half of the Big 12 tournament title game against Missouri to 20 minutes.
"The common denominator to those two games is that we won them both," said Sampson, who is trying to guide Oklahoma to the Final Four for the second consecutive year.
South Carolina State, however, couldn't handle the pressure from Oklahoma's reliable defense, and shot 18% in falling behind 35-16 at halftime.