Fans of both schools showed up tonight to watch the BCA Invitational championship game, but this one was over early as the Wolfpack jumped out to a 13-0 prior to the first media timeout. NC State's starting frontcourt of Jordan Collins and Levi Watkins combined for ten of the first thirteen points, setting the tone in a game that was never close.
The Wolfpack dominated from start to finish, as junior point guard Tony Bethel's 15 first-half points led NC State to a 51-25 halftime lead. What was perhaps most impressive was super guard Julius Hodge had a relatively quiet half, registering just three points before the break.
NC State also defended well, limiting East Carolina to 33.3% field goal shooting in the first half. Wolfpack guard Engin Atsur did a superb job on ECU's top scorer, Mike Cook. Atsur held Cook to six first-half points on three of eight shooting. Cook, who came in averaging 21.5 points per game, finished with 13 points on six of seventeen shooting. Atsur's defensive effort was superb, and he received help on Cook from Cameron Bennerman and Hodge.
NC State's hot shooting didn't end at the break. After connecting on 58.6% of their field goal attempts in the first half, the Wolfpack came back in the second half and shot a torrid 68.2% from the field. NC State missed just seven shots in the entire second half and shot an impressive 62.7% from the field for the game.
Bethel had his best night in a Wolfpack uniform, posting a career-high 22 points on eight of ten shooting. He also had five rebounds and three assists.
"He played terrific tonight on both ends of the floor, and I'm just very proud of him and really commend him for his excellence tonight and throughout the tournament," coach Sendek said.
Like last night, freshman Andrew Brackman again provided a spark for NC State. The 6'10 forward was all over the place, snatching rebounds, blocking shots, and playing with great energy. Brackman totaled 12 points, five rebounds, and three blocked shots, and is showing the skills that made him a coveted recruit for the Wolfpack.
NC State's balance could have been the key to capturing the BCA title. The Wolfpack had eight players score eight or more points, with Bethel's 22 points leading the way. Depth has been a strength stressed by Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek in the offseason and it appears NC State may have its deepest team in years.
"It's important to have good balance for us, and I think that we got a number of different guys involved because guys were playing unselfishly," coach Sendek said. "Guys were looking for each other."
East Carolina's Moussa Badiane was the lone bright spot for the Pirates. The 6'10 center finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots.
NC State (3-0) now has a week off before playing Campbell next Friday at the RBC Center.