Senior Allerik Freeman scored 24 points and freshman Braxton Beverly added 20 to help unranked NC State upset No. 2 Arizona 90-84 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas, on Thursday.
It is the biggest upset of the first month of the college basketball season and the first time the Wolfpack has defeated a top-5 team since defeating second-ranked Duke on Jan. 11, 2015.
NC State, 5-0 under first-year coach Kevin Keatts, went on a 15-3 run in the final minutes of the game to secure the win. It held its biggest lead of the game at 87-77 with 1:48 left.
Arizona (3-1) cut the lead to six on Allonzo Trier’s two free throws with 15.1 seconds left, but that is as close as it could get.
A big difference was the bench. NC State had 39 bench points to Arizona’s six.
Trier, the leading scorer in the country after three games at 30 points-per-game, finished with 27 points. Teammate Deandre Ayton had 27 points and 14 rebounds.
Arizona inched back throughout the second half, taking the lead at 73-71 with just under six minutes left, but Freeman hit two free throws to tie it. Keanu Pinder gave the Wildcats the lead again at 75-73 with a dunk, but Beverly hit a 3-pointer to allow the Wolfpack to retake the lead 78-75 and take complete control of the game.
Arizona had the lead for all of 21 seconds in the first half, and it came on Trier’s first basket to make it 39-37 with 57 seconds left in the half. But until then, Arizona and Trier struggled to keep pace with the Wolfpack.
NC State jumped out to a 15-6 lead early, helped by four Wildcats turnovers. Arizona was able to close the gap behind Ayton’s play near the basket and from distance. Ayton hit a 3-pointer with 7:25 left to cut the Wolfpack lead to 25-22. But NC State kept the advantage, getting it to 35-28 with 3:06 left in the half.
Behind senior Dusan Ristic’s four points and guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright’s 3-pointer, Arizona went on a 7-0 run to tie it at 35 with 1:38 left. The teams exchanged baskets, including Trier’s first to eventually tie it at the half at 40.
Ayton had 16 points and seven rebounds at the half. Trier had just three points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first half.
NOTES: Arizona coach Sean Miller and assistant coach Mark Phelps were assistants at NC State in the mid-1990s under Herb Sendek … F Deandre Ayton was the first Arizona freshman to have three straight double-doubles, and he added his fourth straight on Wednesday. … Arizona fell to 25-13 in games played outside the continental USA. … N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said before the matchup he thought Arizona was the No. 1 team in the country. … G Torin Dorn, the Wolfpack‘s leading scorer entering the game, finished with nine points. … Beverly became eligible last week after the NCAA initially said he had to sit out a year after transferring from Ohio State. This was his third game with the Wolfpack.