It just wasn’t meant to be.
The powerful, third-ranked Gamecocks fell in the ACC Championship game 42-39 to NC State, in what was one of the most famous or infamous games in Carolina history, a two-overtime heartbreaker.
The Gamecocks had run the table in the strong ACC in the regular season (14-0), but were denied an NCAA Tournament bid, with only the tournament champion invited. The turning point in this game occurred back one day earlier. All-American John Roche severely sprained his ankle in the easy victory over Wake Forest in the semifinals. The hobbled Roche went just 4-of-17 from the field vs. NCSU.
Despite the injury issue and the NC State spread offense, Carolina was able to build an 11-point lead in the second half. However, NCSU fought back to tie the game at the end of regulation at 35.
USC had its chances, missing on game-winning shots at the end of regulation and overtime. The critical play occurred in the second OT with Carolina clinging to a 39-38 lead. State’s Ed Leftwich stole the ball from Bobby Cremins, and converted a layup to give State the lead for good. Coach McGuire was livid, claiming Cremins was fouled on the play, but it wasn’t called.
Ironically, the Wolfpack played their first-round NCAA game in Columbia, where they lost to St. Bonaventure.