Free Throw Failures

ORLANDO, FL – One clanged off the rim, then another, and another. And quickly, the disease spread.

Pretty soon, it became an epidemic.

N.C. State missed 13 of its final 26 free throws Thursday night against St. Louis, a skid that allowed the Billikens to scratch back from a 14-point deficit in the last five minutes of regulation and send the Wolfpack home in overtime.

"We're not that bad of a free-throw shooting team," said forward Ralston Turner, who missed one of two in the extra period. "For things to happen like that, I can't really explain. But it happened. It hurts."

There was plenty of self-searching to be shared, with no fewer than six players wishing they could have even just one miss back. That alone might have been enough for the Wolfpack to withstand the Billikens' frantic 18-point outburst in the final 2 ½ minutes of regulation.

T.J. Warren, the ACC's Player of the Year, missed four of his nine free throws down the stretch – and saw another attempt waved off when he was judged to have stepped into the lane. Jordan Vandenberg converted just one of four, as did Cat Barber.

Lennard Freeman clanged his only attempt. Desmond Lee had a miss, too – though to be fair he made three others.

"Some rolled in and rolled out, unfortunately," Warren said.

And with each ensuing miss, it seemed, it ratcheted up the pressure on those teammates who followed them to the line.

"Especially when you see it going down like that," Turner said, "it can creep into the minds of other people. But we still should have done a better job of finishing down the stretch."

Overall, N.C. State made just 20 of 37 free throws on the night – a 54 percent success rate that marked their worst night from the line since a 50 percent performance (7 of 14) in falling to Syracuse 56-55 back in February.

"It's one of those things," said Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried. "It's hard to explain. We're a good foul shooting team. We've been a good foul shooting team here recently, and it kind of steamrolled on us there from the foul line.

"Even when you went to the foul line, you... I still have great confidence that we're going to step up and make foul shots. Like I said, it just seemed like it got to steamroll, that all of a sudden it just got contagious. We work on it every day. I think our guys do a nice job at the foul line, and sometimes the momentum there just shifts on you so hard."

It certainly does.

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