Grant's Free Throws Give Pack OSC Title

ORLANDO, FL -- NC State senior Gavin Grant hit two free throws with .4 remaining to give the Wolfpack a 69-68 win over No. 19 Villanova in the finals of the 2007 Old Spice Classic.

  • Quotables: Lowe, Fells, Grant Discuss Win
  • Box Score: NC State 69, Villanova 68

    Gavin Grant gave the Wolfpack something it desperately needed: a break.

    With just 0.4 seconds remaining, the senior hit two of three free throws to give the Pack a 69-68 victory over 19th-ranked Villanova in the championship of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

    Grants heroics came shortly after Villanova's Dante Cunningham seemingly sealed the game for the Wildcats with a tip in off a missed shot with only 2.2 seconds to go. Then, Brandon Costner's Hail Mary pass from the baseline ended up in Grant's hands, and he was fouled by Cunningham as he turned to shoot. The official awarded him three shots, and after missing the first, he hit the next two to secure the victory for NC State.

    "Gavin actually did a good job of fighting to get it, because they were all over him," said Coach Sidney Lowe. "He fought and took it, and had the presence of mind to shoot it and he got fouled. That was a great play on his part."

    Grant, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, was one of four Wolfpack players in double figures. Courtney Fells, who was named tournament MVP, led the Pack with 21 points. J.J. Hickson added 15 points and six boards, while Ben McCauley had 10 points and eight boards.

    It was the Pack's third win in a row, and it was a major step in clearing away the memories of the loss against New Orleans one week ago.

    "I was relieved [when the last free throw went in] because we didn't have to go through one of those practices again," said Grant. "After that New Orleans game, we had a tough practice, and I was glad we didn't have to go through that again."

    The Pack opened the game with a bang when Grant hit a three-pointer on the opening possession. State took advantage of some cold Villanova shooting to hold an early 9-2 lead, but the Wildcats began pressuring the ball and, with some more aggressive play on the offensive end, eventually grabbed a 13-12 lead.

    The lead was pushed to 20-14 on Corey Fisher's three-point play, but the Pack battled back time and time again. A three-point play by J.J. Hickson tied it at 33 with 1:39 to go in the half. Then, Fells took over, jamming home a missed three and hitting a three of his own to give the Pack a 38-33 halftime lead. It was a significant feat for the Pack considering Villanova had forced 16 NC State turnovers in the first half.

    In the second half, the Wildcats came out with a lot of energy and eventually grabbed a 43-42 lead at 16:27 on a tough shot by Cunningham. The teams traded baskets back and forth, but State eventually opened a 57-50 lead on a Grant three-pointer midway through the half. Villanova came back to take the lead several minutes later, and held a 66-64 lead with just under two minutes to go.

    Hickson then tied the game at 66 with 1:17 to play and forcing Villanova center Casiem Drummond (who led the Wildcats with 17 rebounds) to foul out.

    With just over 20 seconds remaining, Farnold Degand grabbed a loose ball and drew a foul to go to the line and hit one of two free throws to give the Pack a brief 67-66 lead, setting up the last Villanova drive and then Grant's heroics.

    Villanova was led by freshman Corey Fisher with 21 points, with Cunningham adding 16 and Scottie Reynolds (who also made the All-Tournament team) chipped in with 13. The Wildcats were the first team in the tournament to shoot over 40% against the Pack (previous teams shot in the 30s), but the Pack countered with a great shooting night with 54% from the field and 47% from the three-point stripe (Fells was 4-of-6).

    "These guys never quit," said Lowe. "They never stopped playing. Even when Villanova made their run, they just kept going. They wanted it and they wanted it bad. And I'm happy for them. It was a great championship against a very good ball club."

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