Nate Robinson had a chance to ice the game moments earlier when he stepped to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with 10.1 seconds left and the Huskies up two, but his first free throw fell short, giving the Wolfpack a final chance to tie or win. Hodge took possession of the ball, isolated beyond the three-point arc at the left end line, with Roy on his hip.
While the clock ticked down, Hodge used his strong hand to go left towards the baseline, throwing up a point-blank shot in traffic that fell down into the hands of Washington's Tre Simmons with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. NC State coach Herb Sendek screamed for a foul along with the rest of the Wolfpack bench, to no avail, and Simmons hit both free throws for the final nail in the coffin.
No. 18/20 Washington (8-1) sent NC State, ranked as high as No. 9 by the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 12 by the AP entering the game, to its first loss of the season. The Wolfpack dropped to 8-1.
It came on a night when the Huskies managed to shoot only 15 percent from three-point land, connecting on 2-of-13 shots, with a total of four fastbreak points. "This game obviously was a huge game for us going in, but it was an even a bigger game the way we won it because we did not shoot the ball well from the perimeter, we did not make foul shots, and we still found a way to win," said Romar. "
With the exception of about a five-minute period there in the second half, it was pretty much a deliberate, slow-down pace which is not how we have played all year. And yet we found a way to win. "We won the Alaska Shootout, but given the circumstances I would say this is the biggest win of the year."
Hodge, to his credit, placed the blame on nobody but himself in the locker room after the game when asked about the final play. "I've got no control over the officiating, but I know I went strong to the rack. I still should have finished that shot," he said. "There's no need to blame officials. We put ourselves in a great position, and coach wanted the ball in my hands at the end and I didn't convert."
While Hodge was taking the blame, Romar was handing out credit to Roy, the Huskies' third-year player from Garfield High who went down with a torn meniscus in the second game of the Great Alaska Shootout against Oklahoma.
"He picked his spots and naturally made plays," said the Husky coach. "He' s a very smart player." Roy told Romar before the game he didn't know if he'd be available, but hesitantly entered the contest with 4:19 to go before halftime not knowing exactly what to expect out of himself. He was greeted by a thunderous ovation from the Husky student section, and though not much of a factor at first he injected life into Huskies.
"I don't think there is any doubt," said Romar. "He was like a shot in the arm. You feel like you've got your big stud back." As it would turn out, the addition of Roy proved to be more of a necessity than a luxury, as the game remained close until the final minutes.
With Washington clinging to a 57-56 lead with just under four minutes remaining, Roy's putback pushed the Husky lead up to three points. Shortly thereafter, with the Huskies ahead 61-58, it was Roy again who came out of nowhere to slam home a tip-jam off a Simmons miss.
All served as appetizers to the main course that came on his defensive stand in the final seconds. "We thought he was out (of the game)," said Sendek, referring to Roy. "He' s a great player who hurt us a lot last year. He gave them a great lift." Washington needed the lift in a bad way, as the usual scoring options - Simmons and Robinson - remained ice cold into the opening minutes of the second half.
The usually reliable Robinson, a player accustomed to stepping up when on the grand stage, picked up two fouls in the opening four minutes and was held to three first-half points on 0-5 shooting. The Huskies finished the first half without a fastbreak point or 3-pointer made, yet trailed just 31-30.
Keeping them in the game was tough team defense and the solid play of forward Mike Jensen, who connected on all three of his first-half field goals for six points and four rebounds heading into halftime.
Hans Gasser, called upon to play meaningful minutes for the first time in his two-year career, also held his own when Bobby Jones went to the bench in early foul trouble. Simmons and Will Conroy scored 12 points apiece to lead the Huskies.
The Wolfpack were paced by the 16 of Cameron Bennerman and 15 of Hodge, but it was the play of forward Andrew Brackman, a 6-10 freshman, that keyed NC State down the stretch. Brackman scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, utilizing his nifty low-post moves to keep the Huskies on their heals.
"We were aware of him," said Romar. That is a talented freshman. He's going to win a lot of games for them."
Next up for the Huskies is a home game versus Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by home games against Houston, California and Stanford. Whether the win over NC State gets attention in the polls heading into those games is anyone's guess, but with ESPN's Andy Katz on press row such a statement game will likely only help. Simmons says no matter the rankings, the team has to maintain its focus on the next game at hand. "We've played some tough teams this year, and so I hope we get some respect," said the senior guard. "If we don't, we're going to have to just keep winning."
Scoring NC State 31 33 64 Washington 30 38 68 Points Washington: Simmons 12, Conroy 12, Roy 10, Williams 9, Jensen 8, Jones 6, Gasser 2, Smith 2. NC State: Bennerman 16, Hodge 15, Brackman 14, Atsur 10, Bethel 3, Evtimov 2, Simmons 2. Rebounds Washington: Robinson 7, Williams 6, Simmons 6, Jones 6, Jensen 5, Conroy 4, Roy 3, Smith 2 Assists Conroy 7, Robinson 5