"I knew I fell hard – I could feel the blood running down my face," Horner said. "But I was fine."
All it took was a few stitches and a little bit of super glue to get Horner back on the court. The senior wasn't about to let a nasty cut keep him from finishing his career at the RBC Center with a win. Horner returned with a vengeance, scoring 11 points in the final seven minutes of the game to help NC State down Boston College 66-54 on Sunday afternoon.
"I knew that [cut] wasn't going to stop me – that's why I got up quick and got to the back to get stitched up," Horner said. "I was a little disappointed but it was fine – I think it knocked my 3s back into me."
With the win the Pack moves into a three-way tie with North Carolina and Virginia for 9th place in the conference. But because of tie-breakers the Pack will be the 11th seed in the ACC Tournament on Thursday – meaning the Pack will play at 9pm against the yet-to-be-determined sixth seed. The Pack has now won three of its last four games heading into the tournament.
"You never know when its going to happen – for say an individual player of for when its going to click in for your team," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "We just hit a point where we started to figure it out a little bit."
Tracy Smith once again led all Wolfpack scorers with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. Horner added 14 points despite missing most of the second half with injury while CJ Williams came off the bench to score 14 points and grab five rebounds. Johnny Thomas, who has scarcely played this season, had six rebounds in 17 minutes of action – more minutes that's he's played all season combined.
"Johnny kept himself ready – he's always played hard in practice," Lowe said. "He's done everything in practice we've asked him to do and we are going to get him a shot."
After 10 first-half turnovers the Pack went the entire 20 minutes without giving the ball away on offense. The Pack also hit 50 percent of its shots in the game, including 59 percent in the second half and 42 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Eagles shot 45 percent but just 18 percent from 3-point land and had 11 turnovers.
"We can win games," Smith said. "We just have to play hard for 40 minutes – not 30 minutes – you have to play for 40 minutes strong."
The first half saw both teams making runs, with Boston College starting the game by jumping ahead 10-4 before the Pack put together and extended counter punch. State followed with a 14-2 run of its own, which the Eagles countered with a 9-0 run. But State had the final run of the half, using a shot-clock beating bomb from Williams and a three-point play from Horner to take a 24-23 lead to the locker room.
Neither team shot poorly in the half, with the Eagles hitting 46 percent from the field and going 0-for-6 from behind the arc while the Pack shooting 42 percent but hit 2-of-6 from 3-point range. The Pack continued its turnover-prone ways from earlier in the week with 10 in the half, but managed to force eight turnovers from the Eagles.
"Obviously senior day didn't start off well for us," Lowe said. "But I thought some guys came off the bench for us and gave us a big lift."
Unlike the first half, the second 20 minutes became a back-and-forth contest with the two teams trading baskets for much of the half. The Eagles pulled ahead by as much as four points, but the Pack turned that deficit into a 59-50 lead thanks to the efforts of Horner and Smith. The two big men scored 10 of the Pack's 13 points during an 13-1 spurt that put the game away for the Pack.
Now Horner, who came to the Pack as a freshman hoping to play in the NCAA Tournament, has one final chance to make that dream come true.
"I always wanted to go to the NCAA Tournament playing college basketball – but that's how it goes sometimes," Horner said. "Like I said - we still have a chance to go."