Melvin's Buzzer Beater Leads Wolfpack Over Houston, 67-66
Dec 23, 2001
By Tony Haynes
Houston, TX.--Much to the chagrin of University of Houston basketball fans, the legend of Lorenzo Charles lives on. On Saturday, Marcus Melvin did it to the Cougars again by sinking a three-point shot at the horn to lift the Wolfpack to a 67-66 victory.
Melvin's bucket, which came at the end of a scramble for a loose ball, may not have been as dramatic as Charles' dunk that beat Houston in the 1983 National Championship game, but it was suspenseful enough to give the Pack (10-2) its fifth straight win.
"It was an amazing shot, I don't know how to explain it," said Melvin, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half. "I just wanted to pick it up and make sure I followed through on the shot. When it left my hand I kind of felt good about it. I had a feeling that it was going to go in or it was going to hit the backboard and have a chance to go in after that. When it went in I knew they had to count it because I heard the buzzer after it left my hand."
But the officiating crew wasn't so sure. After ruling that the shot was good, referee Kerry Sitton wanted a second look on the replay monitor. As players and coaches from both teams tried to sneak a peak, Sitton watched the TV replay a couple of times before confirming that the ball had left Melvin's hand with just .03 seconds remaining.
"I thought the shot was good and I was surprised that they went to the monitor, but by rule they said they had too," NC State head coach Herb Sendek said. "The longer they took, the more doubt I had. Then when Kerry Sitton called (official) Ted Hillary over then the doubt went up a little bit more. Then I started asking people on the scorer's table if it was good and everyone said yes. Obviously for Houston it was a heartbreaking way to lose. It's a shame that anyone had to lose a game like this because the kids played hard on both teams."
The final minute of the game was tense for both sides. After Houston's Louis Truscott nailed two free throws to give the Cougars a 64-63 advantage with a minute to play, freshman Julius Hodge connected on one of two on the other end to tie the game for the fifth time.
The Cougars then got the ball with 38 seconds remaining. Working the dribble up top out of a 1-4 set, Houston's Kevin Gaines penetrated and kicked to a cutting George Williams, who slammed it home to put Houston ahead 66-64 with just 6.5 seconds remaining.
After calling two time-outs, Sendek drew up a play to get the ball in Anthony Grundy's hands against the Houston press. Grundy, who finished with 17 points, streaked into the frontcourt before running into a trap along the left sideline. As Grundy fell to the floor, the ball came loose and a wild scramble ensued. It was Pack freshman Levi Watkins who got a hand on it and batted it to Melvin for the game winner from 25 feet out on the left wing.
"I did the same thing in 10th grade but I was supposed to shoot a two-pointer so we could tie it up and go to overtime," Melvin said. "I just dribbled the ball up the court and shot a three-pointer and it went in. The same thing happened, my teammates and everybody ran over to me. It's a good feeling knowing you're put in a situation--purposely or accidentally--you can help your team out by making shots like that."
The Pack would need Melvin's heroics and more to win on this day. Houston's Williams was almost the hero, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The powerful 6-8 junior knocked down 8-of-10 shots after making 10-of-14 in another 22 point outing at LSU on Thursday. The Cougars got a second double-double from Truscott, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Overall, Houston dominated the boards 47-34, and had 18 offensive rebounds on the day.
"This is one where you find a way to win, there's no other way to explain it," Sendek said. "We knew going in that we would have to contend with Houston's offensive rebounding. They scored 19 points on offensive rebounds against LSU earlier in the week. That obviously isn't one of our strengths so we knew we had our work cut out in that area."
After falling behind 8-2 in the first few minutes of the game, Houston used an NC State scoring drought to go on a 9-0 run. The Cougars led by as many as six in the first half before settling for a 35-33 lead at the break.
But led by Melvin and Grundy, the Wolfpack put together a 17-5 blitz over a six and a half-minute span. Watkins finished the run by connecting on a three-point bomb from the right wing to give NC State a 61-54 lead with 6:03 left. Houston answered with a 10-2 run of its own over the next five minutes to grab a one-point advantage on Truscott's free throws with just a minute to play.
Because of foul trouble, NC State needed plenty of help from its bench. Starting guard Archie Miller was whistled for his fourth foul with 12:32 left. Hodge picked up his fourth with 7:55 showing on the clock. Watkins and freshman center Jordan Collins gave the Pack some valuable minutes throughout the game. With four points and three rebounds in 10 minutes of playing time, Collins put together his strongest performance of the year.
"He just keeps getting better and you can see it in practice," Sendek said. " It's just amazing how practice--most of the time--is a real indicator of how someone is going to do in the game. He has stayed the course and stayed positive. I thought he gave us a tremendous lift tonight."
Not only did NC State survive Houston's rebounding advantage, it overcame just 37.7 shooting from the floor. Hodge joined Grundy and Melvin in double figures with 13 points along with four assists.
Gaines added 13 for the Cougars, who made 40.7 percent of their shots from the field.
When the game had ended, players and coaches from NC State jumped off the bench and celebrated while the snake bitten Cougars could only watch and wonder how it had gotten away.
The legacy of Lorenzo Charles lives on.