Wolfpack can’t climb out of early hole in another opening round elimination

Just as it did in last week's ACC tournament, NC State fell behind Seton Hall early and never caught up in making a quick NCAA exit

NC State's Allerik Freeman has the ball stripped from him by two Seton Hall defenders Desi Rodriguez (20) and Sandro Mamukelashvili during Thursday's NCAA tournament loss in Wichita (Peter G. Aiken?USA TODAY Sports)

WICHITA, Kan. — Khadeen Carrington had 26 points and Desi Rodriguez added 20 off the bench to lead the No. 8-seed Seton Hall Pirates to a 94-83 win over the ninth-seeded NC State Wolfpack on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Allerik Freeman had a season-high 36 points and Torin Dorn added 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Wolfpack, who lost for the third time in four games to end their season. Coach Kevin Keatts’ team fell victim to a similar fate to the one that helped oust it from its opening round game at last week’s ACC tournament by digging itself an early double-digit hole from which it could never completely climb out.

“It’s tough to lose any game, you know. We wish we could run it back,” Freeman said. “But it doesn’t work like that. And that’s the beauty and the ugly about the NCAA is that it’s one and done.

“They did a great job. Like I keep saying, they were able to control the game once they got up down the stretch, where we were playing as hard as we can, trying to sell out with everything, every single defensive play,” Freeman added. “And they took care of the ball enough to hold us off.”

With the win, Seton Hall advances to the NCAA Tournament second round for the first time since 2004 and the second time since Tommy Amaker led them to the Sweet 16 in 2000. The Pirates will meet Midwest Regional No. 1-seed Kansas on Saturday with a Sweet 16 berth on the line.

Speaking of the line: Seton Hall survived in large part because the Wolfpack struggled from the free-throw stripe, where they shot just 59.3 percent. NC State (21-12) also shot just 46 percent after shooting 52 percent from the field in the first half, when Seton Hall built a 51-41 lead.

The Pirates shot poorly in the second half as well, finishing 48 percent from the field after shooting 61 percent — including 54 percent from 3-point range — in the first half.

Seton Hall also outrebounded the Wolfpack, 40-34, and shot 79.5 percent from the free-throw line.

The Pirates dominated the game almost from the opening tip, leading by double-digits nine minutes in and keeping a large lead for much of the contest. NC State got to within three midway through the second half, but Seton Hall rebuilt the lead behind a talented bench.

Rodriguez had 14 points in the first half, and Ismael Sanogo added 10 off the bench for the Pirates (22-11). Myles Powell added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Pirates and Angel Delgado had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Lennard Freeman had 13 points off the bench for NC State, which returned to the tournament for the first time in three years.

“A lot of these guys came to play for me before they even knew how I was going to play and the guys in the program stood by us,” Keatts said. “When you think about a first-year program and we win 21 games and we go 11-7 in the ACC and finish third. I’m proud of them.

“(We) never really could get over the hump. I thought we fought in the entire game. We were right there, and then every time we made a play, I thought they had an answer for it.”