Once again, the Wolfpack started out slowly but as in the season opener against Stetson, NC State got a huge lift from a bench player.
With the Wolfpack leading 17-11 midway through the first half, freshman Brandon Costner came off the bench and drilled three-straight 3-pointers, pushing NC State's lead to 26-11 and opening up what had been a close contest.
"Certainly Brandon Costner came in and hit a flurry of threes," NC State head coach Herb Sendek said. "It really helped us open up the working margin."
"I just really tried to come out and give the team a lift," Costner said. "I made my first one and it kind of felt good."
Playing just his second game in a Wolfpack uniform, the 6-foot-8 freshman forward from New Jersey missed all six of his 3-point attempts in last night's opener. That didn't prevent him from firing away tonight.
"He's a terrific shooter," said Sendek. "I told him after the game last night that the next time he was open, the very next time, I wanted him to put it in. I knew it was going in. Sure enough... he really gave us a great lift tonight."
"I tried to erase last night out of my mind and look forward to the next shot," Costner added. "It didn't feel any different. I just tried to concentrate."
Costner's trio of 3-pointers opened up the game, and the hot-shooting of Engin Atsur closed out the first half positively for the Wolfpack.
Atsur connected on two 3-pointers, a layup and two free throws in the final four minutes of the half as the Wolfpack's 14-3 run to end the half pushed the lead to 49-19.
With Costner, Atsur and Ilian Evtimov all scorching from beyond the arc, it is apparent that the Wolfpack has plenty of options on the perimeter. Nine different players attempted three-pointers, as the Wolfpack connected on 14-of-33 on the night.
Whether it's Costner, Evtimov, Tony Bethel, or Cameron Bennerman, it seems everybody has the green light to shoot from deep.
"Well, there are different shades of green," Sendek joked. "But, we have some guys who can shoot the basketball. We work hard at it.
"I think our guys are starting to understand that the best way to get a good three is to go inside first."
"Coach has confidence in all of us that we can all shoot," Costner said. "We all work on it in practice everyday. I think we give him enough confidence in us to have the green light to shoot whenever we're open."
NC State was outstanding defensively, limiting The Citadel (0-2) to 26% shooting from the field, as the Bulldogs connected on just 16-of-61 shot attempts.
The Wolfpack forced 18 turnovers, and was superb defending beyond the arc as The Citadel hit just 4-of-23 3-point attempts.
Five different players scored in double figures for the Wolfpack, with Atsur's 18 leading the way. Costner and Cedric Simmons added 12 points while Ilian Evtimov chipped in 10.
NC State got another strong outing from freshman Ben McCauley. The 6-foot-8 forward had 13 points, including a nice dunk in traffic, in 15 minutes of action. Sendek continues to be impressed with the effort he is receiving from McCauley.
"He's a terrific young man who just has worked incredibly hard," Sendek said. "He has given us some excellent play."
"I just play aggressive," said McCauley. "I just try to get to the hole and if they foul me, they foul me. I'm just doing what coach would like me to do... just get to the hole."
McCauley has been the backup for Simmons, and NC State's starting center also played strong in the post. Simmons finished with 12 points, five rebounds and two assists.
"I think he's just had tremendous improvement," Sendek said of Simmons. "He's really come a great distance. His strength is certainly paying dividends for him."
"I think I played well at times," Simmons said. "There were still a couple of mistakes. I know I can get better... there are things I can still work on. Overall, I think I had a pretty good game.
"My inside presence was known tonight. The Citadel had some big players that were really strong, so defense was something that I tried to key in on."
With the 6-foot-9 Simmons and 6-foot-10 Andrew Brackman starting in the frontcourt, NC State possesses an imposing frontline. Both players altered several shots and Brackman had three blocks against the Bulldogs.
NC State (2-0) concludes the Hispanic Annual Fund Classic tomorrow afternoon against Delaware.