RALEIGH — The adage goes that a basketball game isn't over until the final second disappears from the clock. In a heartbreaking loss on Sunday, N.C. State men's team learned the truth of that age-old maxim.
Florida escaped the RBC Center with a 62-61 overtime victory after Chandler Parsons heaved a 3-pointer from 75 feet and nailed it in the game's final seconds. His remarkable shot splashed through the nets as the backboard lights illuminated and handed the Wolfpack (10-4) a disappointing loss just as it had seemed to pull out a hard-fought victory.
Parsons, a 6-foot-9 reserve forward, collected a rebound off a missed free throw by State's Farnold Degand, who clanked the second of two free throws off the rim after making the first with two seconds remaining. Parsons, who leaped high to snag the long board, took two dribbles and heaved his shot from the blue RBC Center logo on the court.
He was tackled to the floor by his ecstatic teammates while State players looked on in awe that such a rainbow prayer could fall through the nets and snatch away a seemingly sure thing. The announced crowd of 17,207 didn't know whether to kick or scream, so they just stood around for some time after the game, trying to explain the improbable.
"I'd be lying if I felt that it looked good going in or I felt that I had it," Parsons said. "I was trying to make sure that I got it off in time."
He did despite Farnold swiping a hand over his head.
"We should have had someone cut him off, [make him] spin to take a couple more dribbles before he took the shot," State's point guard Javier Gonzalez said. "He took a clean shot. Who knows how many times he's going to make that in his career again. But he made it. We've got to live with it."
State must live with a loss where it made 22 of 55 field goals (40 percent) and 10 of 19 free throws (52.6). The Pack was outscored 34-24 in the paint, committed 14 turnovers and tied the Gators with 41 rebounds.
Tracy Smith, the team's leading scorer, finished with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds, while Gonzalez had 13 points, six rebounds and six turnovers.
Still, State fans were ready to credit Gonzalez for the victory after his late-game performance, forcing overtime and scoring seven key points to help the Wolfpack build its lead in overtime.
Trailing by two points with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Gonzalez forced overtime with a follow-up layup. Darting in the lane, the junior guard grabbed a rebound off a missed layup by Dennis Horner and put it back in to tie the game at 48-48 with 32 seconds on the clock.
As he backpedaled on defense, Gonzalez pounded on his chest as if to say, "I've got heart." In overtime, he showed some heart, scoring the first five points of the extra period and helping the Pack put the Gators away by hitting two free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining.
To open overtime, Gonzalez nailed a 3-pointer to give the Pack a 51-48 lead and then followed that with a layup.
But Parsons' shot erased all of those good deeds. It'll be a hard lesson to swallow but Gonzalez said the team will learn from it.
"That's teaching us that we've got to play to the last second," he said. "We kind of relaxed, we didn't stop the ball. He's going to throw up a shot from the other side of the court. 'He's going to miss that,' that's what we're thinking. But as you can see ... he made it. Crazy things can happen."
State coach Sidney Lowe said his team's defense was "solid" for most of the game, adding that the Pack struggled on offense at times and was inconsistent at the free throw line, especially down the stretch. He said he wanted to put Florida on the free throw line in overtime and the Gators were 4-for-4 in the extra period, keeping the game close in the final seconds.
"We needed to make our free throws and then get in front of the guy," Lowe said of Parsons' shot. "We just had a situation like that against Arizona and we let the guy go the length of the floor. We can't have that happen."
The Gators closed the Pack's slim 29-27 half-time lead in the opening minutes of the second half and made it a rough-and-tumble contest. State thought it had survived.
In a blink of an eye, they had to think again. "They all hurt, but this one really, really hurts," Lowe said.
email@example.com or (919) 829-4781