ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- After Julius Hodge fouled out, Matt Freije, Mario Moore and Corey Smith kicked North Carolina State out of the NCAA Tournament.
Freije hit three free throws, a 3-pointer and a jumper in the final 2:44 and Moore set up Smith for the go-ahead layup with 21 seconds left as sixth-seeded Vanderbilt rallied for a 75-73 victory over the third-seeded Wolfpack in the second round of the Phoenix Region.
Vanderbilt (23-9) advanced to the "Sweet 16" for the first time since 1993 and will play second-seeded Connecticut in the regional semifinals on Thursday.
"This is why you play college basketball," said Freije, who finished with 31 points. "I played here for four years and to finally have it all pay off is the most rewarding feeling ever."
North Carolina State (21-10) appeared headed to its first trip to the "Sweet 16" since 1989. The Wolfpack held a 69-59 lead when Hodge, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, rebounded his own miss and banked in a shot in the lane with 3:28 left.
But Hodge committed his fifth foul, slapping Freije's arm while the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year attempted a 3-pointer, with 2:44 remaining. Freije made all three free throws and then connected on another 3-pointer with 2:21 left to pull the Commodores within 71-65.
Marcus Melvin committed a turnover on North Carolina State's next possession and was called for a questionable intentional foul as he pushed Smith from behind with 1:50 left.
"I was going to try and foul him while he was shooting," Melvin said. "We got caught up and it was ruled intentional."
"I tried to pull up and get some kind of contact, and I ended up getting an intentional foul," Smith said.
Smith made both free throws, and a 3-pointer by Moore seven seconds later pulled Vanderbilt within 71-70.
Freije, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, gave the Commodores the lead, 72-71, with a jumper from the left side.
North Carolina State regained the lead at 73-72 on a pair of free throws by Ilian Evtimov with 35 seconds left. Evtimov scored a career-high 28 points, but lost his man on a backdoor play and Moore took advantage, bouncing a pass underneath to Smith, who converted a layup while he was fouled and the free throw to complete the three-point play with 22 seconds remaining.
"Coach called out the play and they were over-defending it," said Moore, who had 16 points. "Corey made a great cut and luckily I was able to make a great pass."
On the Wolfpack's final possession, freshman Engin Atsur dribbled away most of the clock before firing up an off-balance shot that was partially blocked by Scott Hundley as Hodge held his head in his hands on the bench.
"It was difficult. I wanted to be out there with my teammates," Hodge said. "Losing a game on a backdoor play, a play we go over in practice every day, that's just incredible to me. We defend that every day in practice because that's our offense. I just cannot believe we lost this game."