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Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2005 8:22 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(10) No Carolina St 65, (2) Connecticut 62

WORCESTER, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- North Carolina State is happy Julius Hodge listened to his mom.

Hodge, who had 19 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in a first-round victory over Charlotte, converted a three-point play in the closing seconds that gave the 10th seed Wolfpack a 65-62 victory over No. 2 Connecticut in a second-round Syracuse Region matchup.

"It definitely feels good to get a win against a major program and one of the best teams in the nation," Hodge said. "We had to pull everything out of the box to get the victory but we got it done. It's not unbelievable but nobody believed it could happen for us."

After Charlie Villanueva picked up a loose ball under the basket and scored to tie the game with 15 seconds left, Hodge took the ball, drove down the right side and banked in a runner with 4.8 seconds remaining as Ed Nelson slid underneath him and was called for a block.

"I was just dribbling the ball up the court," said Hodge, who was shadowed by UConn's Rudy Gay. "Rudy's a tremendous talent. He started clapping his hands and smiling and I just felt like there was no way I was going to be denied."

"I saw him penetrating, and Rudy slip so I went over to help," Villanueva said. "I really thought it was an offensive foul, and they would call a charge."

Coach Herb Sendek is making his first appearance in the Sweet 16 in his nine seasons at North Carolina State.

"To tell you the truth, it all happened in a flash," Sendek said of the winning basket. "I didn't have time to worry about the call. I saw the ball go in the hoop and my first thought was three-point play."

Hodge knocked down the free throw and after a desperation shot by Marcus Williams came up short, the Wolfpack were back in the regional semifinals for the fifth time and the first time since 1989.

"We just knocked off the defending champion and it feels great," Wolfpack guard Cameron Bennerman said.

North Carolina State looked like it was in good shape after freshman Andrew Brackman knocked down a 3-pointer with 66 seconds left for a 62-58 lead. But Williams hit two free throws five seconds later and the Wolfpack's Bennerman was called for a carry, giving the Huskies the ball with 34 seconds left. Williams drove the lane and missed a heavily contested shot before Villanueva picked up the loose ball and converted.

North Carolina State will play Wisconsin in Syracuse on Friday.

It was widely thought that Hodge, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year last season, would turn pro but he decided to return for his senior season in an attempt at winning a national championship.

"The reason I came back was my mom," Hodge said. "I guess I'm a mama's boy. She said, 'Come back to school and get your degree,' and I had to do it. But it definitely feels good to get this victory against this great team."

Hodge finished with 17 points on 5-of-10 from the floor and 7-of-7 from the line. He added six assists.

Bennerman added 15 points, including a 3-pointer with 5:12 remaining to give North Carolina State (21-13) a 56-45 lead. But Connecticut (23-8) rebounded for a 17-6 run, including seven from Villanueva, to tie the game with just seconds remaining.

Williams scored a career-high 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting but committed six turnovers. Villanueva added 16 and 12 rebounds, but both he and center Josh Boone, who was held to six points and four rebounds, went scoreless against a much smaller front line over a 13-minute period when the Wolfpack stormed back from a 29-25 halftime deficit.

It was the first time in 28 games Jim Calhoun lost to a team seeded lower then fifth in his 19-year coaching tenure at UConn.

"We ran out of bullets and energy," Calhoun said. "It's one of the few times in my coaching career that we ran out of gas and players. A lot of things caught up to us."

Both Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson were playing through injuries and not at full strength while guard Antonio Kellogg was suspended prior to the tournament.

"We were drained," Calhoun said. "We didn't have anything left. The better team won today."

The Wolfpack, using its patented Princeton-style passing game, knocked down 10-of-20 from the arc. Connecticut was 2-of-14 on 3-pointers. The Huskies held a 31-26 edge on the boards but could only manage 28 points in the paint.

Connecticut is the first defending champion not to make it to the regional semifinals the following season since it was knocked out in the second round of the 2000 tournament by Maryland.

"It feels good, kind of barely making the tournament, being a bubble team and then coming in and beating two teams (Charlotte, UConn) that are ranked in front of you," Wolfpack freshman Brackman said. "Hopefully they (the public) don't doubt us now. Hopefully, they just (get) behind us and support us the rest of the way."


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