Allerik Freeman did his best to carry N.C. State to an NCAA tournament win, but the Wolfpack could never overcome the lead Seton Hall built early in Thursday's game.
Playing his final college game, Freeman scored a career-high 36 points but Seton Hall's balanced attack was too much as the Pirates posted a 94-83 NCAA tournament Midwest Region first-round win at INTRUST Bank Arena.
Ninth-seeded N.C. State, playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015, never led as its season ended with a 21-12 record.
No. 8 seed Seton Hall (22-11) advances to meet top-seeded Kansas in Saturday’s second round.
Having played in three NCAA tournaments for Baylor before coming to N.C. State as a graduate transfer, Freeman made 12 of 18 shots, including six 3-pointers, to lead the Wolfpack.
“They were able to control the game," Freeman said of the Pirates. "Once they got up down the stretch, where we were playing as hard as we can, trying to sell out with everything, every single defensive play. And they took care of the ball enough to hold us off.
And it just sucks, especially when you're a senior and my last college game ever."
Torin Dorn added 18 points, Lennard Freeman 13 and Markell Johnson 12 for the N.C. State, which shot 45.9 percent. The Wolfpack made only 40 percent of its second-half shots.
Senior guard Khadeen Carrington led Seton Hall with 26 points, while fellow senior Desi Rodriguez added 20 points.
"I thought they played like seniors down the stretch, obviously, to win the game," N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said.
Sophomore guard Myles Powell scored 19 by making 10 of 12 free throws, and senior center Angel Delgado (13 points, nine rebounds) also helped Seton Hall advance.
After trailing by 10 points at halftime and as many as 12 in the second half, N.C. State climbed within three points twice.
The final time came when Dorn nailed a 3-pointer with 8:11 to play, cutting Seton Hall’s lead to 69-66.
But the Wolfpack hit a cold stretch on offense that doomed its chances to advance.
Four empty Wolfpack possessions (Dorn and Allerik Freeman each had a turnover and missed shot) allowed Seton Hall to score eight points in a row. When Myles Powell sank a jump shot with 5:46 to play, the Pirates led 77-66.
Though Allerik Freeman added a couple of baskets, Seton Hall scored on two more possessions to lead 81-70 with 4:36 left.
N.C. State never drew closer than six points the rest of the game.
"Never really could get over the hump," Keatts said. "I thought we fought in the entire game. We were right there, and then every time we made a play, I thought they had an answer for it."
After trailing 51-41 at halftime, N.C. State made just 2 of its first 11 shots of the second half. When Rodriguez scored in the lane with 14:24 to play, the Pirates led 62-50.
N.C. State made a push, though, with Dorn leading the way. He hit a 3-pointer and added a layup on an aggressive drive down the lane.
When Allerik Freeman drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner, Seton Hall’s lead was just 63-58 with 12:09 to play.
With 11:39 remaining, Lennard Freeman hit two free throws, leaving the Pirates with a 63-60 lead.
Seton Hall opened the game with a flurry of offense, scoring on its first eight possessions. When Ismael Sanogo scored at the 12:27 mark, the Pirates were 10 of 13 from the field and led 25-14.
Trailing 27-16, the Wolfpack fought back with a 9-0 run that saw Seton Hall go scoreless on consecutive possessions for the first time in the game.
Allerik Freeman’s two 3-pointers, sandwiched around a Dorn 3-pointer, cut the Seton Hall lead to 27-25.
When Dorn stole the ball and tossed a pass downcourt to Markell Johnson for a layup, N.C. State cut the Pirates lead to 32-31 with 7:59 to play.
N.C. State had a chance to move in front, but Desi Rodriguez blocked an Omer Yurtseven shot at the rim to start a fast break. Rodriguez hit a 3-pointer at the other end to start a 7-0 Pirates run.
After Johnson’s basket, no Wolfpack player other than Lennard Freeman scored a point the rest of the half. Lennard Freeman scored 10 points over the final 6:19 of the half, but he couldn’t stop Seton Hall from taking a 51-41 halftime lead
The Pirates made 16 of their first 22 shots of the half, including six of seven 3-pointers, before cooling off to finish at 61 percent (19 of 31) from the field in the first half.