Cat Barber dribbled upcourt as the final seconds ticked away in the first half against Missouri on Saturday, settling in just beyond the 3-point arc.
He dribbled between his legs, jabbed inside the arc to threaten a drive against Tigers guard Tramaine Isabell, then popped back outside of it and released a shot over Isabell.
The ball swished home as the buzzer sounded, giving the Wolfpack its first lead of the game, a 1-point advantage, heading into the break.
“Coach told me to go, so that’s what I did,” Barber said. “That was good, but we still had a whole nother half. That shot wasn’t the game-winner.”
No, he already hit one of those this week against High Point on Wednesday. Saturday’s shot just sent N.C. State into the locker room with all the momentum it needed to pull away from Missouri for a 73-59 win in front of 8,087 fans at Mizzou Arena.
Barber scored 33 points on the night on 9 of 15 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and four assists for the Wolfpack (8-3), which needed every one of Barber’s 19 first-half points to keep the Tigers (5-5) within reach. NC State’s other six players combined for 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting in the half.
Barber also knocked down 13 of 15 free throws as N.C. State hit 24 of 30 from the line. Missouri struggled to an 8-of-19 mark.
“He’s a hard player to guard without fouling. He’s so quick,” Wolfpack Coach Mark Gottfried said. “The way he’s shooting the ball from the perimeter, it’s forcing people to really come guard him a little bit closer. Guys don’t want to let him shoot a jump shot. Now he’s got them up on him, he’s trying to get by them and he’s going to go to the foul line a lot.”
Abdul-Malik Abu finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, as the Wolfpack outrebounded the Tigers, 41-29 — including a 25-13 margin after halftime — and Maverick Rowan scored 12. Cody Martin, who was questionable for the game after injuring his ankle late against High Point, played 21 minutes against Missouri, adding two blocks and two steals to his six points.
Cullen VanLeer scored 12 points for the Tigers, and Isabell added 10. A VanLeer 3-pointer gave Missouri a 19-9 lead with9:26 to go in the first half after a sluggish start for the N.C. State offense in which the Wolfpack came up empty on its first six possessions.
Barber scored the Wolfpack’s first nine points before Abu scored in the paint to touch off an 11-3 N.C. State run to cut Missouri’s lead to 22-20 with 4:15 to go in the first half.
After falling behind 19-9 in the first 10:34, N.C. State outscored Missouri 53-23 over the next 22:35 to take control of the game, Gottfried’s 100th win in 155 games with the Wolfpack. He trails only Everett Case (120 games) as the fastest to 100 wins in N.C. State history.
“Everybody’s got to be in it on our offense for us to score,” Barber said. “I felt like it was time for me to step up and score, and that’s what I did.”
N.C. State went on a 14-2 run over 4:31 in the second half to build a 47-34 lead on a Barber jumper with 13:13 left in the game. Barber assisted on a Martin jumper, hit a free throw and dished to Rowan for a 3-pointer to make the lead 57-42 with9:18 to go. Missouri never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.
“We tried to double (Barber), we tried to deny the ball from him,” Tigers Coach Kim Anderson said.
“We’re not a team of stars. We’ve got to all contribute. We don’t have Cat Barber.”