A snowball's chance in hell–that's what everybody said North Carolina State had against Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma juggernaut. Everybody was wrong. The Wolfpack clawed back from six down with three minutes left to tie the score. Then, with two seconds on the clock, Dereck Whittenburg desperately heaved up a 35-footer, a total air ball that somehow landed in the hands of teammate Lorenzo Charles, who jammed it home for a 54-52 win.
"It was supposed to be a pass," Whittenburg said with a straight face after the game. No one was in a bigger state of shock that N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, who sprinted onto the court waving his arms like a madman as the horn sounded.
Outside of this amazing victory, consider the unbelievable long odds this team overcame to reach this point:
– In seven of the team's last nine victories, they trailed in the last minute.
– The Wolfpack needed to win the ACC tournament to even qualify for the NCAAs. And they barely did that, beating Wake Forest 71-70, North Carolina 91-84 in overtime, and Virginia 81-78.
– In the postseason, N.C. State managed to beat Ralph Sampson-led Virginia, which it had lost to twice during the regular season.
– In one regular-season stretch, the Wolfpack lost six of eight, including back-to-back 18-point losses to unranked teams.
– In the team's opening-round Tournament game against Pepperdine, the Wolfpack rallied from a six-point deficit with 24 seconds left to win in overtime.
– No team had ever won the NCAA championship with 10 losses.