Despondent Hodge Vows For Better

Senior Julius Hodge is his own worst critic, and he was beating himself up over poor free-throw shooting and defensive struggles after a close win over Louisiana-Lafayette. He'll be ready to make amends when the Pack takes on 16th-ranked Washington on the road Sunday.

If you listened to Julius Hodge in the postgame locker room following State's 78-72 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday, you would have thought the Pack just lost at the buzzer to UNC -- and he was held scoreless. He had actually registered 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal in 39 minutes, but he still spoke haltingly, looking down, repeatedly shaking his head. Hodge used the word "frustrated" four times, especially when talking about his 6-for-14 effort from the free-throw line.

"Today, we played well enough to win, but this is a team coming off over a 40-point loss -- and it's a nail-biter," said Hodge. "We didn't have a great game … I put a lot of it on myself. I came out here and I was missing easy shots. I have to go to the line and knock it down; if I make my free throws, it's a different game and we probably win by over 20 points. I just have to play better than that.

"I'm frustrated at myself. My teammates go out there and they play hard and they give it all they've got. Guys like Andrew Brackman and Cameron Bennerman are coming off the bench and they play with all their heart. But I'm still their leader, and today, with my performance on the court, I didn't lead them. I was still vocal, but I've got to play better than that."

The Wolfpack was picked up by Brackman, who hit all six of his shots from the field on his way to a career-high 20 points. Hodge noted the rookie's huge game afterward.

"I'm satisfied that we got the win tonight. We had a freshman, diaper dandy, emerge," said Hodge. "Andrew Brackman came in and gave us a great lift off the bench. He played probably one of his best games of his young career.

"Brackman played great for us tonight. He came in and he definitely had the most intensity tonight. That young guy can ball and he showed a lot of heart and determination, and I love that.

"It's good to get the win, but Kansas beat this team by over 40 points. We were supposed to do the same, but we let them get confidence early on and it carried them through the rest of the game."

Hodge came into the game shooting almost as well from the field (.591) as from the line (.638). However, he had shown indications that he was breaking out of a slump from the line, knocking down seven of eight against Liberty after missing five of six vs. Manhattan. He had no explanation for why he relapsed against the Ragin' Cajuns.

"I don't know," said Hodge. "A lot of them were just bad misses. When you're shooting the ball and it's bouncing 10 feet away from the basket … I don't really know why I was missing, but I was still confident going up to the line that I was going to make them.

"It's a mental thing; I'm not going to let it get me down. I'm just very frustrated, because I've got to make those shots. It wasn't our best game as a team, but we still got a win. Going on the road, I'm going to have to make those shots and we're going to have to play better.

"Personally, I've just got to go to the line and I've got to make free throws. That was ridiculous."

Seemingly every answer Hodge gave, no matter the question, wound its way back to his struggles from the charity stripe or in defending Louisiana-Lafayette's Tiras Wade, who scored 37 points.

"We know that, if we don't have our best games, we still have to win and our bench has to contribute," said Hodge. "That happened today; the rest of the team did very good. The shots from the free-throw line … I missed repeatedly.

"[Wade's] a real good player. When I was in the halfcourt set, when I was on him, he scored about three times. But we let him get easy shots in transition. He got going early in the first half, and when you get a guy going and he gets hot, he's going to continue to make shots.

"In the second half, I had their key guy and he got three tough baskets on me when I was on him … In transition, we let them get open-shot layups. We didn't do a great job defensively."

NC State improved to 8-0 on the season, with a rugged matchup looming: the Wolfpack will tangle with 16th-ranked Washington in its first road game on Sunday evening. Hodge was down on himself following the narrow win over Louisiana-Lafayette, but history has shown that he usually follows up a subpar outing with a stellar showing.

"We really have to be more together, even though today, at times, guys really showed great cohesiveness as a unit and were really as one," Hodge said. "But we're going to have to do even a better job than that against the Huskies or we're going o have a loss on our record. We just have to step it up.

"I've got to watch tape and look at my free-throw shot. That's just real frustrating, because I make free throws. That's just frustrating.

"I feel like I played awful, but we got a win. And now we've got a very good team and we have to prepare for them."

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