North Carolina State's C.J. Leslie, right, collides with Georgetown's Henry Sims during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament third-round game Sunday in Columbus. NC State defeated Georgetown 66-63.
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COLUMBUS — Lorenzo Brown hit three free throws in the final 10.6 seconds and North Carolina State conjured up its glorious tradition with a 66-63 upset of third-seeded Georgetown in a Midwest Regional on Sunday.
The Wolfpack (24-12) advance to play the Purdue-Kansas winner on Friday in St. Louis.
A lowly 11th seed coming in, they had to survive a furious comeback by the Hoyas (24-9) and only were assured of the win when Greg Whittington's hurried 3-point attempt from the right wing was off the mark at the buzzer.
C.J. Williams, Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie each had 14 points, and Brown added 12 for the Wolfpack, who earned their first trip to the round of 16 since 2005.
Hollis Thompson led the Hoyas with 23 points.
Brown, a 74-percent shooter at the line, made both ends of a bonus with 10.6 seconds left for a 65-61 lead. After Georgetown's Jason Clark, who finished with 10 points, raced the length of the court for a layup to cut the lead to two, Brown was fouled again with 4.6 seconds left. He hit the first but missed the second, with the Hoyas racing downcourt for a potential tying 3.
They got a great look, with Whittington, defended by C.J. Williams, stopping and getting off a rushed shot that was wide of the mark.
It set off a wild celebration among the Wolfpack players. Three teammates hefted Brown to their shoulders and carried him across the floor, while guard Alex Johnson popped his jersey and yelled to the roaring North Carolina State faithful, "We back baby! We're going to the Sweet 16!"
It's a return to the big stage for a program that has been lost in the shadows while the spotlight shifted to neighboring powers Duke and North Carolina. The Wolfpack won national titles in 1974 and 1983 but haven't been a national contender in years.
But that might all be changing.
With no player on the roster with NCAA experience, the Wolfpack have followed the lead of their first-year coach, Mark Gottfried. Time and again they've said no one believes in them more or instills more confidence in them than Gottfried, one of seven first-year coaches in the tournament who went to the regional semifinals three times while playing at Alabama.
The Wolfpack maintained the momentum after swooping back from a nine-point deficit to take a three-point lead at the break.
Supported by fans holding up signs that said "We Still Hungry" and "Welcome to our State," they expanded the lead to 43-32 when Leslie rebounded his own missed free throw and leaned in for a follow with 14:32 left.
The Hoyas found a way to get back in it, though. They switched to a trapping half-court zone which seemed to reinvigorate them. Thompson scored nine points in a row for Georgetown, including all the points in a 7-0 run that drew the Hoyas to 45-41.
A Thompson 3 further cut the gap to 50-47 before the teams traded baskets. Leslie — always in the midst of everything for the Wolfpack — hit two foul shots with 4:46 left to expand the lead to five.
After a Hoya free throw, Wood set up on the left elbow and banged in a 3 that he saw swish through the net as he lay on the court. Nearby, Georgetown's Greg Whittington threw up his hands in disgust as the shot fell despite skintight defense.
Brown then hit a teardrop from 10 feet out on the left baseline and later added two free throws to make it 61-54 with 1:11 left to set up the wild finish.
It was another bitter disappointment for the Hoyas. They were knocked out in their first games the last two tournaments and the players said they had finally shed the stigma of those defeats with a 74-59 victory over Belmont on Friday.
But in a close game — and with a nine-point lead late in the half — they lost their mojo and never got it back despite a strong effort.
North Carolina State had reversed an eight-point deficit by running off 12 points in a row, seven of them by Williams.