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by Ben Burns - 01/04/2010
You could see it coming, but you never thought it would end up being as bad as it was.
Anyone who bet North Carolina State against Florida Sunday knows exactly what we’re talking about.
The host Wolfpack was a small favorite, somewhere around -1. The line mirrored the game, a tight, back-and-forth affair during which neither team led by more than four in the second half.
Appropriately, the game went into overtime.
North Carolina State quickly took control in OT and led by six with 1:15 to play.
The Gators were in need of a few 3’s, but had missed 21 of their first 22 attempts from long range. Finally, Kenny Boynton connected on a rushed and well-covered 3-pointer to cut the Wolfpack lead to 57-55 with 11 seconds to go.
Florida fouled, sending N.C. State’s Dennis Horner, an 80 percent foul shooter, to the line. He made one of two, putting the Wolfpack up three.
This is where N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was faced with the decision of whether or not to intentionally foul, before the Gators could attempt a potential tying 3-pointer.
Lowe chose to foul.
For the record, the boys at Bad Beats are a proponent of this philosophy. We’ve been burned many more times by a desperation three than an intentionally missed free throw, followed by an offensive rebound and put back.
Plus, when the NCAA changed the rule on how players line up for free throws, it made it much more difficult to actually get an offensive rebound on a missed foul shot. Players are no longer allowed in the first spot along the line. Before the change, it was very easy for the offensive player to push the defender closest to the baseline under the basket and then grab the rebound.
Now, the defensive players take the second spot, a little further down the lane from the rim, with the first spot left empty. This is a much bigger advantage in the battle for the rebound.
Fouling when up three is now even more of a viable strategy, although some stubborn coaches will argue to their grave.
But it backfired on Lowe.
With seven seconds to play, Florida’s Erving Walker made both free throws, cutting the Wolfpack lead to one. The Gators immediately fouled Javier Gonzalez, allowing just one second to run off the clock.
Gonzalez made both free throws, putting the Wolfpack back up three with six seconds to play.
Again, Lowe chose to foul before the Gators could attempt a 3-pointer. Walker went back to the line with just three seconds left and made the first one. He intentionally tried to miss the second, but it banked in.
Florida was forced to foul again and this time sent Farnold Degand, a 65-percent foul shooter, who was 0-4 from the stripe on the night.
But, with just 2.6 seconds left, even if Degand missed both, Florida was only going to have time for ¾-quarter court heave.
The rest is history.
Degand made the first but missed the second. Florida’s Chandler Parsons grabbed the rebound, took two dribbles and launched a shot from just outside the other 3-point line, about a 75-footer.
Nothing, but net. It was Parsons’ only field goal of the game.
Game over: Florida wins 62-61.
“It was one of those shots where there was nothing diagrammed, there was no play,” said Gators coach Billy Donovan. “It was just a guy who took the ball, and you talk about strange things happening. If the ball bounced anywhere except where it bounced, maybe a different guy shoots it.”