For a half, it seemed like North Carolina State simply was continuing where it left off against Miami in its 81-69 win in both teams ACC opener in December.
The Wolfpack hit 12-of-18 three-pointers in that game and were 9-of-16 from three-point range in the first half of Wednesday night's game at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables.
But this time, N.C. State had to withstand an unbelievable rally by the ‘Canes in a thrilling 86-77 double overtime win to improve to 19-4 overall and 8-2 in the ACC, second behind Duke.
Forward Ilian Evtimov's deep three-pointer from the wing at the start of the second overtime gave the Wolfpack a 78-75 lead, one they would never relinquish. Miami seemingly couldn't recover from that opening dagger of the second overtime stanza only scoring two points in the game's final five minutes.
N.C. State can thank its free throw shooting though for even getting to that point. Up 56-50 with 2:34 to play in regulation, Cameron Bennerman, Gavin Grant and Engin Atsur combined to go 9-for-10 from the free throw line to withstand a Miami surge that saw the ‘Canes drain two three-pointers leading to Guillermo Diaz's driving lay up that tied the game at 65 with 9.8 seconds to play in regulation.
The great free throw shooting continued in the overtime periods, as the Wolfpack finished 22-of-25 from the line and was 17-of-19 in the game's final 12:34.
"We had some excellent free throw shooting tonight," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. "We just went to the line with some great poise and composure. It allowed us to keep scoring."
With the ‘Canes fouling on virtually every possession down the stretch, it was the only way N.C. State could score as its final nine points in regulation came from the charity stripe.
After jumping out to a 15-8 lead behind four three-pointers from Bennerman, Evtimov and Tony Bethel, the Wolfpack's hot shooting continued throughout the first half.
Leading 25-23 with 4:16 to play in the first half, Atsur and Evtimov led an 11-2 run to close the half giving the Wolfpack a 36-25 advantage going into the half.
N.C. State finished the half scoring 15 of its final 17 points from beyond the arc.
"I think we had nine threes at the half," Evtimov said. "I'm sure that (Miami) coach (Frank) Haith made adjustments not to give use as many threes because that's how we were winning at that point."
But it made no difference in the early minutes of the second half, as reserve forward Andrew Brackman sparked the Wolfpack by scoring all eight of his points in a two and a half minute span that helped the Wolfpack push their lead to 51-36 with 11:53 to play.
Then all of a sudden Miami decided to start playing on both ends of the court, and the Wolfpack didn't hit another three in the final 12 minutes of regulation.
Behind the play of Robert Hite, who led Miami with 22 points, and Diaz, who added 18, the ‘Canes outscored N.C. State 29-14 in the final 12 minutes of the game to send it into overtime.
With all the momentum on its side, Miami was still unable to pull away in the first overtime.
After Miami's Anthony Harris scored two points to give Miami a 69-67 lead, Bennerman responded with a free throw and a three-point play before reserve Gavin Grant added a pair of free throws to give the Wolfpack a 73-70 lead. Grant scored 13 points off the bench and was 6-of-6 from the line in 21 quality minutes.
But Hite responded with a three from the top of the key to tie the game at 73. Bennerman came right back with a pretty 17-footer off the board, but Miami's Anthony King hit a put back on a Diaz miss from three-point range to tie the game and send it to a second overtime.
The Wolfpack took over from there.
"It was an emotional roller coaster," Bennerman said. "I think some games in the past we may have lost our focus and let teams back in. Miami forced their way back in, but we didn't get rattled or nervous or anything like that. We've got experienced guys."
And it showed.