NC State's Tracy Smith banked in a 5-footer in the lane with 1.3 seconds to go after a Julius Mays missed 3-pointer from the corner to give the Wolfpack a 60-58 victory over Auburn Sunday in the Glenn Wilkes Classic at the Ocean Center.
Frankie Sullivan scored a game-high 21 points and went 6-of-11 from 3-point range while recording his career-best string of three straight 20-plus point games.
Lucas Hargrove inbounded the ball under the Tigers basket throwing it to Frankie Sullivan, who caught it shy of midcourt and didn't get his shot off as time ran out.
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Sullivan made his career-best sixth 3-pointer with 1:58 to play to break a 51-51 tie, giving the Tigers a 54-51 lead. Dennis Horner answered with a 3-pointer for the Wolfpack to tie it at 54-54 13 seconds later. An Earnest Ross driving layup put the Tigers back in front 56-54 with 1:01 to play, setting up the final second heroics.
"It is just a heartbreaker," said Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo. "We had a chance to win it. They hurt us on the offensive boards tonight. That was the big difference. We got them to miss the first ones and the 50-50 balls they were bigger and stronger.
"We did a good job on Tracy Smith's first ones, but the second ones, he just manhandled us and made the big play at the end. That was the toughest shot he had of the night and banked it in. Free throw shooting, 5-of-15 in a close game, offensive rebounds, two three second calls in the last three minutes of the game that they called. Those kind of things hurt you."
Smith, the tournament's MVP who finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds, made a conventional 3-point play to allow the Wolfpack to regain the lead at 57-56 with 50 seconds remaining. Sullivan missed a trey on Auburn's next possession, and following a Tiger offensive rebound, Reed missed a 3-pointer short of the rim, but Hargrove collected the ball and laid it in to tie it at 58 with 12.4 seconds left.
"If you were at the game, they won it on the offensive boards," said Sullivan. "Coach was pushing everybody the whole tournament, and I don't think we are going hard enough on the boards as team as a whole. One person plays good at this game and two people another game. We need the whole team to play good every game in order for us to get some wins.
"I think we are going to have to go back and regroup and talk together as a team, then everybody will know what to do. Right now, we are bad as a team trying to get all of the pieces together to play as a team, and that is what is killing us right now."
After scoring the final four points of the first half to take a 26-25 halftime lead, NC State (4-0) continued with seven straight points, closing an 11-0 run with a 35-25 lead almost three minutes in. The Wolfpack grew their lead to 39-28 after three straight offensive rebounds, capping the possession with a C.J. Williams putback layup.
Auburn (2-3) answered with 10 straight points, capped on a Sullivan 4-point play, to draw the Tigers to within 39-38 with 11:31 to play. Sullivan's fifth trey of the game enabled Auburn to regain the lead at 43-41 and then DeWayne Reed nailed another 3-pointer on the Tigers' next possession for a 46-43 lead.
An Andre Malone free throw and a Johnnie Lett tip-in putback gave the Tigers their largest lead at 49-43, ending a 21-4 run in just over seven minutes midway through the second half. Auburn held the NC State scoreless for 5:35 and only four points in 11 minutes from the 15:41 mark to the 4:39 mark in the second half.
After the dry spell, NC State drained back-to-back 3-pointers by Javier Gonzalez and Mays to tie it at 49-49 with four minutes to play.
Auburn only shot 5-of-15 from the free throw line and was outrebounded 43-36, including 19-11 on the offensive end. The Tigers outshot the Wolfpack 41.5 percent to 33.3 percent and from 3-point range, 39.1 percent (9-of-23) to 26.3 percent (5-of-19). NC State made 13-of-18 from the foul line.
NC State scored eight straight points, six of them on free throws, to break an 8-8 tie for a 16-8 lead halfway through the first half. The Wolfpack took their largest lead of the half at 20-11 but nine straight points by the Tigers on a bucket and 3-pointer by Sullivan, a Sullivan fullcourt pass to Johnnie Lett for a layup and a Lucas Hargrove driving layup tied it at 20-20 at 3:27.
Sullivan's third trey of the first half enabled Auburn to regain the lead at 23-22 a minute later and then Hargrove drove and swished a floater in the paint to give the Tigers a three point lead.
DeShawn Painter made a pair of free throws with a minute remaining and on the last possession of the half, NC State had three straight offensive rebounds before Scott Wood scored on a jumper in the lane with six seconds on the clock to give the Wolfpack a 26-25 halftime lead.
NC State outrebounded Auburn 26-18 in the first half and had 11 offensive rebounds to outscore the Tigers 11-0 in second chance points. The Wolfpack had the lead at the break despite shooting just 26.7 percent (8-of-30) from the field and 25.0 percent (2-of-8) from 3-point range.
Auburn shot 35.7 percent (10-of-28) from the field and 30.8 percent (4-of-13) from behind the arc and missed 6-of-7 shots from the free throw line in the first half.
NC State had one more turnover than Auburn, 7-6, but the Tigers outscored the Wolfpack 12-3 in points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Reed and Sullivan were both named to the all-tournament team.
Auburn returns home to play High Point (2-1) on Wednesday at 6 pm Central in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. For tickets call 800-AUB-1957 or log onto www.engageauburn.com.