Yes. You're right. T.J. Warren was mugged by James Michael McAdoo with N.C. State up by two with 35 seconds left in overtime. UNC subbed in scrubs like Luke Davis and Desmond Hubert in an obvious ploy to foul; they did indeed foul, but in a fortunate turn of events for Powder Blue Nation, no foul was called. The bouncing ball went off Warren's shoulder and UNC tied the game on a possession it never should have had.
N.C. State got the screw job.
We could just stop there. But that isn't the whole story. Warren got accosted again on the next possession and this time a foul was whistled, and he missed his first of two. Had he made them both, we're still playing, as Marcus Paige's layup is a game-tying shot rather than a game winner. Or maybe Paige goes for the win and misses a three and State wins. Or maybe he makes yet another three and the Pack loses. The bottom line is that N.C. State missed three overtime free throws, and that, as much as anything, was the difference in the game.
Don't forget that the refs called an off the ball hold on car-borrowing, mouth-piece-hawking Leslie McDonald with State down two with under two seconds left. Warren made them both to force overtime. If the shoe was on the other foot, you would have said State got screwed by such a call.
The refs, in my humble and inebriated opinion, had too much influence on the outcome of what was really a pretty incredible game by both teams. But both teams benefitted from those whistles at times, and it was ultimately missed opportunities at the stripe in overtime, and the general inability to guard Paige that did the Pack in. That opinion might not be popular. Sorry.
UNC goes as Paige goes, and Pack defenders simply lost him too many times in the extra frame. State was up six in overtime with just 1:35 to go when Paige buried one of his seven threes. After the Pack traded one free throw for two from Paige, the unfortunate Warren mugging was followed by a Jim Mike Mac layup to tie the game. State got just one free throw again, and then Paige, a guy that had 33 freaking points at the time, was allowed to drive the length of the floor for a pregame layup line game winner. No one stopped the ball. Warren was late on help defense. Ballgame.
This game should have been won despite some questionable calls. Warren, who scored 36 points, was brilliant for most of the game. But he and N.C. State weren't quite good enough. Again.
It's always a harder pill to swallow when it's Carolina; it's doubly hard when the game is the game that either gets you on the bubble or consigns you to the NIT. It's easy to summon the curse of #ncstateshit or to blame the refs, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the team that made one more play.
At least our players will be able to read their diplomas.