Wolfpack Pulls Away

<B>RALEIGH, NC --</b> Against a hungry and dangerous Manhattan team, NC State was able to overcome an early deluge of turnovers and pull away for the 76-60 victory.

Julius Hodge again starred for the Wolfpack, compiling 17 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists on the night. Hodge's great effort came despite being benched to start the game, a penalty enforced by Coach Herb Sendek because Hodge was late for an early team event.

Hodge watched the Jaspers get off to a hot start in the game, as they pressured the Pack into 10 first-half turnovers on their way to a 25-18 lead. However, the Wolfpack would recover to rattle off a 17-0 run and recover for a 35-30 halftime lead.

Averaging 19 forced turnovers a game and 27 points off those turnovers, the Jaspers' aggressive defense faced its toughest challenge against the Wolfpack, which is leading the ACC with a 1.79 turnover ratio, and giving up only 11 turnovers a game, but had early success against the Pack.

"Early in the game we were careless with the ball," said Hodge. "In the second half, I guess we were a little less careless with the ball."

After scoring only one bucket in the last 3:30 of the first half, NC State came out strong to start the second, led by an emotionally charged Hodge. Hodge scored 10 of the Pack's first 14 points in the second half and helped NC State extend its lead. Behind Hodge, the Wolfpack ultimately pulled away for the hard-fought victory.

NC State was able to pull away by breaking the Jaspers' non-stop full-court press, and forcing some turnovers itself, highlighted by steals and rim-rocking dunks by Hodge and Tony Bethel, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

Junior forward Ilian Evtimov helped State's halfcourt offense take advantage of the undersized Jaspers. Evtimov had 13 points on four of five shooting from the field, including several nifty scores in the paint.

The Wolfpack was able to handle a capable Manhattan team despite hitting only 5 of 18 three point shots.

Another tough defensive effort was the key. Manhattan, which upset fifth-seeded Florida in last year's NCAA tournament and was predicted to again with the MAAC conference title, was held to its lowest point total of the season by the Wolfpack. Star senior forward Peter Mulligan, who played at St. Raymond's High School with Hodge in New York City, was held to 2 of 12 shooting, and added seven free throws to total 11 points, well short of his team-leading average of 21 points per game.

The Wolfpack shot 50.8 percent on the night, and held Manhattan to just 32.8% shooting. Jordan Collins continued his hot shooting, going four for six for 13 points, including another three-pointer. Collins has now made four of six three pointers on the season and shooting an overall 70%.

"He is really playing solid basketball," said Sendek. "Jordan was the only one on our team who was perfect from the free throw line tonight, and he hit a big three for us."

Up next for the Pack is Liberty University on December 11, which will be played in Reynolds Coliseum.

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