In the final match, performed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, NC State led at halftime with a score of 33–25. Houston was hampered by foul trouble that plagued star Clyde Drexler, who picked up four first half fouls. In the second half, the Cougars came out with a second wind and established control of the game, eventually taking a seven-point lead.
However, things weren’t all great for Houston. Considering that the game was played in Albuquerque, players needed to deal with the town’s mile-high elevation. The Cougars’ star centre, Akeem Olajuwon, had problems adjusting to the surroundings and drained quickly, having to test out of the game multiple times so that he could put on an oxygen mask and recuperate. Together with Olajuwon on the seat, Houston head coach Guy Lewis determined that so as to protect the lead and the health of his huge man at precisely the exact same time, the Cougars had to start slowing the game down.
Once more, this allowed the Wolfpack to return to their standby strategy of extending the game. Houston’s free throw shooting was very suspicious entering the match, which functioned heavily in NC State’s favor since they could rally back and even the score at 52 in the last two minutes. On what is the final Houston possession, Valvano called for his players to back away and let freshman guard Alvin Franklin bring the ball up the court. The Wolfpack defenders would allow the Cougars employ their lag strategy of passing it around. Once the ball got back to Franklin he was fouled immediately. With 1:05 left, the freshman was fouled and sent into the line to get a one-and-one. The thought to foul Franklin sprung from the enormity of the moment; NC State thought that the relatively inexperienced Franklin couldn’t withstand the strain of going to the line with the tournament at stake and understanding fifty million viewers were tuned in to watch the game. The concept proved correct as Franklin failed to convert the Wolfpack caught the rebound. Valvano called timeout with 44 seconds left and drew up a play for mature guard Dereck Whittenburg during the timeout, which called for the group to pass him the ball ten minutes left on the clock so he could take the last shot.
Houston needed a defensive stop in order that they could find another chance to close out the game. Lewis decided to move from the man-to-man defense his team had been running the whole game to a half court zone trap defense. The Wolfpack, who were not anticipating the defensive adjustment, were forced to deviate and started passing the ball around simply to keep the Cougars from slipping it. Houston nearly obtained the turnover it was searching for if Whittenburg made an errant pass to Gannon which Drexler almost came away with before the sophomore regained control of the ball. The ball finally wound up at the hands of guard Sidney Lowe, who lent it to forwards and fellow senior Thurl Bailey in the corner.
Attempting to keep the ball going, as he had been double teamed as soon as he obtained the move, Bailey looked back toward Whittenburg, that had been roughly thirty feet from the hoop near midcourt. Bailey threw what Whittenburg would call a”poor basic” overhanded pass that Houston’s Benny Anders, guarding Whittenburg about the play, was in position to steal. Now, Whittenburg hearkened back to his high school days together with Morgan Wootten in DeMatha Catholic High School, where he had been taught to always grab the basketball with both handson. If Whittenburg had not tried to do so in this circumstance, Anders might have gotten the slip and a game-winning breakaway layup. In college basketball in the time, the match clock continued to operate after a made field goal, and the Wolfpack likely would not have had time to inbound the ball. As it was, Anders knocked the ball out of Whittenburg’s hands, but Whittenburg quickly regained control.
The clock, meanwhile, had ticked down to five minutes and Whittenburg was still standing a substantial distance from the objective. After he regained control, Whittenburg turned and launched a desperation shot, afterwards claimed by Whittenburg for a pass, to attempt to win the match for NC State. The shot’s trajectory took it to the front of the basket where Olajuwon was covering Wolfpack centre Lorenzo Charles. As he watched the shooter, Olajuwon said he understood the shot was likely to come up short but he also did not wish to go for the ball too early due to the potential for goaltending. Charles took advantage of the indecision from Olajuwon and proceeded up for the atmosphere balland, in 1 movement, he scored the go-ahead points with a two-handed dunk. The last second ticked off the clock prior to Houston could inbound the ball, and that, the match ended, and the Wolfpack were the winners.
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