N.C. State came oh-so-close to advancing to an Elite 8 matchup with its arch rival but fell short in a 60-57 loss to Kansas on Friday in the NCAA Tournament.
The Wolfpack didn't shoot well, it was in foul trouble, and it found itself down by nine points with 5:40 left, but was within a point and a chance to win it with less than 15 seconds remaining. But some poor late-game calls from the bench and a lack of execution on the last possession was crucial in the defeat.
N.C. State finishes its season at 24-13 while the Jayhawks improved to 30-6 while advancing to the Midwest Region finals versus North Carolina
Here are both teams' grades for their performances Friday night:
N.C. State offense: The Wolfpack shot just 28.4 percent from the floor, including 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. Richard Howell was again particularly ineffective at making the most of his opportunities, scoring just four points despite grabbing nine offensive rebounds. He was 2-for-12 from the floor, Scott Wood 2-10 (2-9 from 3), and Lorenzo Brown was 3-12. State also had 14 turnovers to go with just 10 assists. Grade: D.
Kansas offense: Bill Self's club shot 37.5 percent but was just 1-for-14 from 3-point range. Thomas Robinson was only 7-17 and Tyshawn Taylor was 2-14, including missing all sox 3s. Kansas was never all that fluid and some of its shot selection was suspect, but compared to what NCSU's offense did, the Jayhawks were pretty efficient. Grade: C-.
N.C. State defense: The Pack did a solid job, especially on Taylor. It made Robinson work for most of his points and didn't let any of the other guys go off. N.C. State did its best work over the game's final five-plus minutes, limiting Kansas to only four points, giving its offense a chance to try for the victory. Grade: B.
Kansas defense: Part of this was State's own issues and part of this was Kansas just playing great defense. The Jayhawks didn't allow any of the Wolfpack not named C.J. Leslie have a big game, as each struggled. They limited State's bench to just three points, and made stops on the pack's last few possessions. Grade: A.
N.C. State intangibles: Mark Gottfried's squad battled through a horrible shooting night, foul trouble, playing before mostly fans rooting for Kansas, and a stage none of the players had ever been, and darn near won the game. Play calling and late-game execution may have been poor, but more important was the disposition of this team. Grade: A.
Kansas intangibles: To overcome shooting 1-for-14 from 3-point range, Taylor's 2-14 night and allowing 20 offensive rebounds and still win to advance to the Elite 8 says a lot about the mental toughness of the Jayhawks. Grade: A.