Pack Fights Back To Defeat 49ers

<B>Worcester, Mass. --</b> NC State guard Julius Hodge finished with 19 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds to lead the Wolfpack past No. 7 seed Charlotte 75-63 in the NCAA opening round.

  • Box Score
  • Photo Gallery I
  • Photo Gallery II
  • Audio: Herb Sendek
  • Audio: Wolfpack Players
  • Audio: Bobby Lutz
  • Audio: Charlotte Players

    Despite coming away with the double-figure victory, NC State had to admit the game was much tougher than the final score indicated, in large part due to the opening heroics of Charlotte guard Brendan Plavich.

    Plavich, who led the nation with nearly four 3-pointers per game, drilled three 3-pointers in the first four minutes and after another three, this time from Eddie Basden, the 49ers had jumped out to an early 18-4 lead.

    Down 14 points, NC State began to chip away with solid defense and improved tenacity on the offensive end. Senior Julius Hodge keyed the comeback, playing inspired and seemingly wanting to do anything possible to lead the Wolfpack into the second round.

    Late in the first half, the Wolfpack cut the lead to just four points, 31-27, on an Engin Atsur layup, but after Curtis Withers hit a jumper, Plavich knocked down his fifth 3-pointer of the half to give Charlotte a 36-27 lead. NC State freshman Andrew Brackman's two free throws in the final four seconds closed the gap to 36-29 at the half.

    NC State had to feel good being down just seven points at halftime. The Wolfpack had shot 33% from the field while Charlotte connected on 56% of their shot attempts. Plavich's 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting was clearly the difference in the half.

    With Atsur primarily guarding Plavich in the first half, Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek made a change at halftime, electing to put 6'4 junior Cameron Bennerman on the red-hot shooter. Bennerman, NC State's most athletic player, obviously accepted the challenge of guarding Plavich, as he held the 49er senior scoreless in the second half.

    With Plavich now under control, NC State started to slowly draw closer to Charlotte on the scoreboard, and after a Hodge three-point play at the 14:21 mark, the Wolfpack trailed 49-45. Minutes earlier Hodge, a second-team All-ACC player and the 2004 ACC Player of the Year, scored his 2,000 point on a dunk, becoming just the third Wolfpack player to score more than 2,000 points in a career, joining the great David Thompson and long-range bomber Rodney "Ice" Monroe.

    Hodge continued to have his way with Charlotte and Eddie Basden, the two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. Basden was unable to contain Hodge throughout the contest, and a reverse layup by Hodge cut the 49er lead to just one point with 11 minutes to play. NC State would take the lead on its next possession, as Bennerman hit a pull-up jumper to give the Wolfpack a one-point lead.

    NC State would never surrender the lead, as Bennerman, Hodge, Ilian Evtimov, Atsur, and Andrew Brackman all made huge plays down the stretch for the Wolfpack.

    After Charlotte tied the score at 59 on a Curtis Withers' free throw, the Wolfpack closed the game on a 16-4 run, keyed by an Evtimov 3-pointer off a Hodge offensive rebound.

    The Wolfpack hit their free throws down the stretch, and with Benerman locking down Plavich, Charlotte couldn't recover.

    After hitting 33% of their shots in the first half, NC State rebounded to shoot 55% in the second half.

    Leading the way for NC State was Hodge, who played a magnificent floor game as he finished with 19 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Freshman Andrew Brackman continued his strong play, as he added 16 points and six boards while Evtimov, Bennerman, and Atsur chipped in 12, 12, and 10 points respectively.

    Basden, Plavich, and Withers each scored 15 points for the 49ers as Basden also recorded 10 boards. Junior E.J. Drayton chipped in 11 points as well.

    The No. 10 seed Wolfpack now will face the No. 2 seed UCONN Sunday afternoon in the second round. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 and potentially face No. 3 seed Kansas in the Syracuse Regional.

  • Pack Pride Top Stories