PITTSBURGH — Both LSU and N.C. State earned at-large NCAA tournament bids on the strength of their seasons, leading to their matchup Thursday.
For N.C. State, the reason for their improved play was obvious. The Wolfpack’s late-season surge was fueled by the play of their backcourt trio of Anthony “Cat” Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner.
The challenge for the Tigers’ trio of Jalyn Paterson, Keith Hornsby and Tim Quarterman was clear: Slow the burn of the Wolfpack backcourt.
Unfortunately for Quarterman and LSU, N.C. State’s BeeJay Anya scored in the final second as the Tigers lost 66-65 in a game they led for nearly 31 minutes.
The N.C. State guards got off to a quick start, as each of the three showed off their skill-set early.
Turner and Barber opened with fade-away jumpers for N.C. State’s first points, Barber followed by exploding to the hoop for a layup and Lacey added another fadeaway. The trio scored N.C. State’s first 13 points.
But the most impressive guard on the floor for the first 30 minutes was wearing purple and gold. LSU’s Tim Quarterman had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, leading the Tigers to a 14-point halftime lead.
While the Tigers had 28 of their 40 first-half points in the paint, it was the LSU backcourt — led by Quarterman — controlling the tempo defensively. Quarterman, Patterson and Hornsby filled passing lanes, getting deflections, forcing turnovers and disrupting the N.C. State offensive flow.
Even as the lead began to slip away, Quarterman consistently made plays to fend off N.C. State runs.
Quarterman’s performance was a bounce-back game of sorts, as the sophomore was averaging just 9.3 points over his previous seven contests — an average that was boosted by his 18-point, triple-double performance against Ole Miss on Feb. 28.
“He played 39 minutes against a team the quality of N.C. State,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “I thought he played some quality minutes, and he had a real tough assignment defensively. Their guards do a great job running off of screens, and he did a great job chasing them. He was possibly a little bit winded down the stretch, but I thought he gave a great effort.”
When the Wolfpack made its run in the latter minutes of the game and had the ball trailing by a point with 14 seconds remaining, it was Quarterman whom Jones entrusted to make the big stop. Quarterman was matched up on Lacey, who hit a buzzer-beater earlier in the season in the Wolfpack’s win over Georgia Tech.
“I thought Tim did an excellent job of playing one-on-one defense,” Jones said of the final play that resulted in N.C. State winning on a putback with a fraction of a second remaining. “He was matched up on their leading scorer with the ball in his hands, looking for his shot, and he had to turn it down. Ultimately he made a tough pass inside to the post guy.”
“We were up for most of the game,” Quarterman said. “We played good. We played as a team, but in those final seconds they just ended up making enough plays tonight. Our team worked hard during the season. We had a good season to get to this point, and to lose like that is a heartbreaker.”