Tough Loss For 'Pack

<B>SEATTLE, W.A. --</b> Trailing Washington by two points with 10 seconds remaining, North Carolina State coach Herb Sendek knew he had to put the ball in Julius Hodge's hands.

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    The senior forward drove to the baseline and went up with his team's final shot, but the potential game-tying layin missed after Hodge drew contact from two Washington defenders. With no call from the officials, Washington's Tre Simmons grabbed the rebound and was fouled with two tenths of a second remaining.

    Despite holding the 18th-ranked Huskies to a season-low in scoring, the 12th-ranked Wolfpack lost 68-64 last night at a sold out Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

    After the game, Hodge took the blame for the miss despite the questionable no call.

    "I went straight up and I thought the little guy, Nate (Robinson), got me on the body some," said Hodge, who finished with 15 points and five rebounds. "I still should have finished that shot though. There's no need to blame the officials. The coach put the ball in my hands for me to do something special, and tonight I didn't do that."

    What was billed as a showdown between two of the country's best players didn't quite live up to the hype, largely because of N.C. State's ability to shut down the dynamic Nate Robinson. The 5-foot-9 guard scored only seven points, well below his 22.5 points per game average.

    Instead, the Huskies (8-1) got an unexpected boost from the return of Brandon Roy. The junior guard had surgery to repair a torn right meniscus suffered in his team's Nov. 26 win over Oklahoma.

    The original diagnosis was that he would be out four to six weeks. Instead he returned in three, coming off the bench to score 10 points, all in the second half, including two dunks that fired up the sellout crowd.

    "No, we thought he was out," said Sendek when asked if they planned to face Roy. "We read the same stuff that you guys probably wrote, four to six weeks. He's a great player, he hurt us a lot last year. He gave them a good lift."

    The Wolfpack (8-1) held the usually explosive Washington offense in check in the first half, holding the Huskies to 30 points while allowing no fast-break points and 0 for 3 three point shooting.

    "Our mission was to guard Washington and not Nate Robinson," said Sendek. "I think they're as good on offense as any team in the country. You look at the stat sheet and it looks almost like Lorenzo just got to fill out the numbers as he wanted.

    "I think, for the most part, to come in and keep them under 70 points was a pretty good defensive effort for our team. It was just a good college basketball game."

    In the second half, the teams traded leads eight times, with Washington taking the lead for good on Mike Jensen's alley oop from Will Conroy.

    Simmons built the lead to five points with a three-point play with 22.4 second left, then Engin Astur hit a three to cut the Washington lead to two points. Robinson was fouled, and missed the front end of the one and one, setting up Hodge's final attempt.

    "That team was a good basketball team," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. "They are not going to beat themselves, and I think the fact that we pressured them the entire game to cause turnovers was what helped us. I think this is the biggest win of our season so far."

    Cameron Bennerman led NC State with a game-high 16 points. Freshman Andrew Brackman added 14 points including 12 crucial second-half points for the Wolfpack.

    Simmons and Conroy each scored 12 to lead Washington, but it was Roy's second half that seemed to lift the Huskies.

    "I think we showed everybody tonight that we don't have to score 99 to beat you," said Roy. "We have reached that level of one of the elite teams. I've never heard this building louder."

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