It’s hard to put into words how many demons have been exorcised, both today and also over the last few weeks. The payback victories against Wake Forest and Charlotte were nice, but it all would have been very hollow without today. Obviously, Julius Hodge as a senior avenging the heartbreaking 2nd round defeat of his freshman year has some great symmetry to it. But it was more than that – the slaying of the ghosts of Vanderbilt. Even the clueless, 7th string CBS announcers noted that it looked as if NC State might squander another double-digit lead in the final minutes. But NC State never surrendered the lead. Herb Sendek had become famous for calling time-outs to set up “final plays” that went horribly awry. But Herb Sendek wisely saved his last timeout for defense, and trusted his best player to make something happen. And perhaps most importantly, the legend of Julius Hodge is finally complete – to my knowledge, Julius Hodge had never made a game-winning, end-of-game shot during his illustrious career at NC State. But today, he made the biggest shot of his life, with a free throw added for emphasis.
Today, Herb Sendek earned the right (in my eyes, not that Fowler is asking) to come back in 2005-06, if he so chooses. Good job today, coaches and players, and best of luck next week in Syracuse.