In the last match, performed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, NC State led at halftime by a score of 33–25. Houston was hampered by foul trouble that plagued celebrity Clyde Drexler, who picked up four first half fouls. From the second halfof the Cougars came out with a second wind and established control of the game, finally taking a seven-point lead.
But, things weren’t all good for Houston. Since the game was played Albuquerque, players had to take care of the town’s mile-high altitude. The Cougars’ star center, Akeem Olajuwon, had problems adjusting to the surroundings and drained quickly, having to test out of the game multiple times so he could wear an oxygen mask and recover. Together with Olajuwon on the bench, 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 down the game.
Yet more, this allowed the Wolfpack to go back to their standby strategy of extending the match. Houston’s free throw shooting was quite suspect entering the match, which functioned heavily in NC State’s favor since they were able to rally back and even the score at 52 in the final two minutes. On what would be the last Houston ownership, Valvano known for his players to back away and let guard Alvin Franklin bring the ball up the court. The Wolfpack defenders would let the Cougars use their slowdown 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 in the enormity of the second; NC State thought that the relatively inexperienced Franklin could not resist the pressure of going to the line together with the championship at stake and knowing that fifty million viewers were tuned into watch the game. The theory was 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 defender 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 final shot.
Houston had a defensive stop so they could find another chance to close out the match. Lewis made a decision to move from the man-to-man defense his team was running the entire game to a half court zone trap defense. The Wolfpack, who weren’t expecting the defensive adjustment, were forced to deviate and began passing the ball around simply to maintain the Cougars from slipping it. Houston almost obtained the turnover it was looking for when Whittenburg made an errant pass to Gannon which Drexler almost came away with prior to the sophomore recovered control of the ball. The ball eventually wound up in the hands of protector Sidney Lowe, who lent it to forwards and fellow senior Thurl Bailey at the corner.
Trying to keep the ball moving, as he had been double teamed as soon as he received the pass, Bailey appeared back toward Whittenburg, who was roughly thirty feet from the hoop near midcourt. Bailey threw what Whittenburg would later call a”poor fundamental” overhanded pass which Houston’s Benny Anders, guarding Whittenburg on the drama, was able to steal. Now, Whittenburg hearkened back to his high school days 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 may have gotten the slip and a game-winning breakaway layup. In college basketball in the moment, the game clock continued to operate after a made field goal, and the Wolfpack probably would not have had time even to inbound the ball. Since it was, Anders knocked the ball out of Whittenburg’s hands, but Whittenburg quickly regained control.
The clock, meanwhile, had ticked down to five seconds and Whittenburg was standing a substantial distance from the objective. Once he regained control, Whittenburg turned and started a desperation shot, afterwards claimed by Whittenburg to be a pass, to attempt to win the match for NC State. The shot’s trajectory took it to the front of the basket at which Olajuwon was covering Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles. As he noticed the shot, Olajuwon said he knew the shot was going to come up short but he also did not wish to select the ball too early due to the prospect of goaltending. Charles took advantage of this indecision by Olajuwon and went up for the atmosphere balland, in 1 movement, he scored the go-ahead points using a two-handed dunk. The final second ticked off the clock prior to Houston could inbound the ball, and with that, the game ended, and the Wolfpack were the national champions.
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