J.J. Hickson had just put back a Grant miss with 3.9 seconds on the clock to tie the score at 77 each in overtime against No. 24 Miami on Saturday night. With the crowd roaring, the game seemed destined for a second overtime. But Miami's inbounds pass went to the wrong guy, and a shocked Grant took one dribbled and calmly sank a lay-up to give NC State a thrilling 79-77 win.
"He just threw the ball right to me," Grant said. "I was going to get [Jack] McClinton and he just threw it right to me. He really [surprised me] – I was like... 'thank you.'"
The final play was just one of a series in the final 18 seconds of overtime that gave the Pack (12-5, 1-2 ACC) its first ACC win of the season. Courtney Fells, who finished with 14 points, hit a long 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to cut Miami's (14-3, 1-2) four-point lead to one and set up the game-winning series. Grant's steal wouldn't have happened without Hickson's put-back either, as the big man crashed the offensive glass for the biggest rebound of his young career.
"Courtney's 3 was just as big as that last basket," Grant said. "Had he not made that we would have been down three and had to have taken another 3."
The win ends a two-game skid for the Pack, who had lost two ugly games on the road against ranked opponents. But the Pack came out of the gates with an energy not seen in the previous two games, as the team drew energy from a supportive home crowd that were loud despite plenty of empty seats caused by inclement weather. Grant led the Pack with 22 points, 18 of which came after halftime. Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures – Brandon Costner had 16 while Hickson and Fells each scored 14.
"We were just glad to get back home and play in front of our crowd," Lowe said. "We're just proud of our guys – they hung in there. They played hard and they were tough today."
NC State fell behind 5-0 in the first minute before firing off an 11-0 run that put the Pack in the driver's seat for the rest of the half. Fells and Costner came out on fire from behind the arc, hitting 4-of-5 and helping State to its best first-half performance of the month. The performance wasn't quite perfect though, as the Pack's 36-27 halftime lead could have been in double digits had the Pack hit its free throws. State went just 7-of-13 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes of action. Costner led the way with 10 first-half points
"We need Brandon to knock down those shots and he did that tonight," Lowe said.
The Pack let its lead slip away in the second half, as the offensive execution lost its crispness and the defense allowed easy baskets on the inside to the Miami big men. The main catalyst behind the Canes comeback was McClinton, who scored 22 second-half points as his team whittled into the Pack's lead. Miami took its first lead of the half with eight minutes left and the two teams exchanged leads for the remainder of the second half. Grant
"I remember the first time I switched onto him," Grant said. "He juked me one time and I was out of bounds and he popped a 3. I was like 'its gonna be a long three minutes.'"
But Grant actually managed to shut McClinton down over the final minutes of regulation and all of overtime. The guards only points of the extra frame came from two free-throws, and McClinton's lack of success led to just five overtime points for the Hurricanes.