Johnson's last-second shot lifts Miami over NC State 79-78

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 3, 2013 

— Lorenzo Brown stood and cheered from the N.C. State bench with 2 minutes left in Saturday’s game against Miami.

It was all Brown – with his injured ankle – could do to help N.C. State. The Wolfpack, with a breakout effort from freshman point guard Tyler Lewis in Brown’s place, came within one point and one second of handing first-place Miami its first ACC loss of the season.

Miami senior Reggie Johnson wouldn’t let it happen. Johnson’s tip-in with 0.8 seconds left gave the 14th-ranked Hurricanes a dramatic 79-78 win against the No. 19 Wolfpack.

It was the first Saturday in February but it felt like March after an epic ACC basketball game in front of a sold-out crowd at PNC Arena. Fitting of the instant classic the two teams turned in, Rodney Purvis’ 70-footer at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced out.

“I definitely felt good,” Purvis said. “I gave it a shot to go in.”

It was the second time N.C. State has been on the wrong end of last-second tip-in, the other at Maryland. It was a concept coach Mark Gottfried found difficult to process.

“I thought we were in a tough situation today, but I thought our guys responded exactly the way you would want them to,” Gottfried said. “Just heartbreaking that you get right there and you don’t come out of there with a win.”

Johnson, a senior from Winston-Salem, and Julian Gamble, a senior from Durham, were two big reasons the Hurricanes won their fifth ACC road game and first in Raleigh.

Johnson, who missed eight games earlier in the season with a thumb injury, finished with 15 points — the most since his return. None were bigger than his left-handed tip-in of a Shane Larkin miss with 0.8 on the clock.

Purvis forced Larkin into an awkward bank shot as the clock wound down but the ball bounced to Johnson, who was able to out-maneuver Wolfpack forward Richard Howell for his eighth rebound of the game.

C.J. Leslie, who did not start because of a disciplinary issue, finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Howell added 15 points and eight boards but Miami was able to out score N.C. State 50-44 in the paint.

Without Brown, who had started 59 straight games, N.C. State had to try something different at point guard. Purvis got the start, but it was Lewis who jump-started the offense. Lewis’ no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Howell midway through the first half started the Wolfpack on a 10-2 run and put them in control of the game until the 9-minute mark of the second half.

“I’ve tried to stay positive,” Lewis said. “I knew my opportunity would come.”

Lewis made the most of it, as did Purvis. Purvis’ putback dunk highlighted an entertaining first half, in which N.C. State took a 40-34 lead at the break.

Miami, with 18 points from guard Durand Scott, went up 68-62 at the 7-minute mark after a 16-2 run.

The Wolfpack surged back and led 76-71 after a six-point stretch from Leslie. Leslie, who had made his first six free throws of the game, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 53 seconds left and N.C. State ahead 78-76. Scott subsequently went to the line on Miami’s next two possessions but made only two of his four free throws.

N.C. State led 78-77 when Lewis missed a 12-footer from the left elbow. It would have been a story-book ending for Lewis, who had averaged only 4.7 minutes in the first eight ACC games. Instead, it was Miami which swarmed the court in jubilation.

See the box score from the game

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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