Young made six threes, including three in the last six minutes, to help West Virginia advance to its first NIT semifinal since 1981. The East Region top-seeded Mountaineers celebrated by blaring its athletic theme – John Denver's ‘Country Roads' – and Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" over the public address system. It will face South Region No. 1 seed Mississippi State, a winner over Florida State.
"All season long I have been putting this team on my shoulders and as a senior I did it again," said Young, who now has a single-season school record with 107 threes, eclipsing the 101 set by Chris Leonard in 1992. "It was nice to be able to step up in that kind of situation. If I can't finish my career at home, the Garden would be the best place."
That was where Young jumpstarted his career, scoring 14 points in the second round of the 2005 Big East Tournament as a sophomore to splash onto the scene – and into head coach John Beilein's plans. He started the following season when WVU made a run to the Elite Eight and has been on the floor at the beginning of each game this year, in the process becoming one of the finest stories in Beilein's tenure by playing his game.
"He came back and made big shots," Beilein said. "I think that's the maturity level of this team. Maybe the like each other so much, they don't want anybody to tell them they can't play anymore."
NC State couldn't. The Wolfpack, which had won five of six entering after building momentum from a run to the ACC finals, couldn't contain Young. The forward made consecutive threes to give West Virginia a 64-62 advantage with 2:52 left to end a string in which he hit 14 consecutive WVU points over a five-minute span. One of the threes was a bank from the right wing, Young's hot spot on the floor. Alex Ruoff followed that with another trey as the Mountaineers grabbed the edge for good at 67-65 with two minutes left in the game. It was the final lead in a game that had six ties and 13 lead changes – all but one in the final nine minutes.
"I'm in his shirt and he still made one," NC State's Gavin Grant said of Young. "They made big, crazy shots. They deserved to win. It's hard to beat a team twice."
West Virginia defeated NC State 71-60 on Dec. 6, and has won the last four meetings, two of which have come in the NIT, where it is 19-15 overall in 15 appearances. The Mountaineers advanced to 32-2 versus non-conference foes at home over the last five years and 17-1 at home this year.
Ruoff finished with 15 points and had a career-high 11 assists. Butler added eight points off the bench, including two free throws with two seconds left that sealed the game after NC State's Courtney Fells missed a 3-pointer with four seconds left.
"We got a little impatient there down the stretch and forced a couple shots," said first-year NC State head coach Sidney Lowe. "That gave them a chance to come down and score. We have been fighting all year, but that's what West Virginia does. They make shots. We were a little frustrated with some of the ones they got."
NC State (20-16) was led by Brandon Costner's 25 points. Engin Atsur – who missed the first game between the teams because of a hamstring injury – added 14 and Grant scored 12. The Wolfpack lost nine of 12 road games this year.
West Virginia (25-9) built a 24-16 first-half lead with six minutes left. NC State, playing on tired legs due to its seventh game in less than two weeks, narrowed the gap to 28-26 at the break, then took its first lead, 34-33, on Atsur's 3-pointer with 17 minutes remaining. It was the first time West Virginia had trailed in five home games.
The lead swapped on each of the next 10 possessions before Young made his back-to-back threes to extend WVU's NIT run after it was one of the last teams left out of the NCAA Tournament following consecutive years of advancing to at least the regional semifinals.
"We were going to be a 12-seed," Beilein said of the NCAAs. "You may be one and done. Now all of the sudden this is a run. I thought they had something special left in them and this was special tonight."
WVU's 25 wins are its most in 19 years; it now has 1,499 overall. The Mountaineers will make their third NIT Final Four appearance in school history. It won the tournament in 1942, when it was then considered the de facto national championship.