Hot-Shooting Wolfpack Routs Mountaineers

RALEIGH, NC -- No. 24 NC State shot 67% from the field and five players scored in double figures as the Wolfpack raced past Appalachian State 92-68.

NC State head coach Herb Sendek mentioned after the loss at Iowa that he would be switching up the starting lineup, and he did just that against the Mountaineers. Seniors Cameron Bennerman and Tony Bethel both started today's game and sophomores Gavin Grant and Andrew Brackman came off the bench.

I don't know if we have just five starters," Sendek said following the game. "I thought Andrew Brackman was terrific today. In my mind he's clearly a starter.

"I thought it was important that we got our two seniors back in the starting lineup. The good thing about Andrew and Gavin is that they are such team-centered guys, they were right with that."

Offensively the Wolfpack was clicking on all cylinders, as they moved the ball around the perimeter and passed well out of the post. In the opening half, the Pack shot 59.1% from the field, connected on 13-of-22 field goal attempts, and drilled 6-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Appalachian State was able to hang around early, thanks mostly to strong work on the boards. The Mountaineers tallied seven first half second-chance points on seven offensive rebounds but couldn't overcome 36% shooting from the field and trailed 38-26 at the half. NC State limited ASU to just 1-of-10 from beyond the arc, and kept guards D.J. Thompson and Nathan Cranford in check prior to halftime. ASU entered the game shooting 40% as a team from three-point range, and the Wolfpack wanted to really stretch the defense and guard the perimeter.

"App. State is a good offensive team," Sendek said. "They have been putting points on the board. They are capable of putting five 3-point shooters on the court at one time. They really size down.

"They came into the game shooting just under 40% from 3 as a team, and 46% of all their shots came from beyond the arc. They have a nice team. Coach does a good job with them."

Playing in historic Reynolds Coliseum, the atmosphere was electric for NC State's annual Heritage Game. The Wolfpack players really seemed to thrive on it in the second half.

"I think they really look forward to playing this game every year," said Sendek. "I know I always look forward to coaching it. This is a special place, and it always will be. I thought our fans were great again today."

"There's a lot of history in here," Simmons said. "A lot of great players played in this building. It's actually a great place to play."

"A lot of our older players come around... Chris Corchiani and David Thompson," said Bethel. "We felt their spirit in there tonight. We just want to go out and show that tradition... thank them for what they have done for this program.

"It's a shame that we can't play more games in here, but we love the RBC Center and that's our home."

The Wolfpack started slowly in the second half, as a layup by Demetrius Scott cut NC State's lead to eight points with 17 minutes left. Sendek used a 30-second timeout and apparently got his message across, as the Wolfpack stepped it up on both ends of the floor the rest of the game.

Cameron Bennerman

"I just didn't think we came and started the way we're suppose to," said Sendek. "I just didn't want to let that slip by."

"It isn't his job to provide that spark... especially coming out of halftime," Bennerman said of Sendek. "That's when teams really try to get you, and he's right about that."

Although they were able to hang around, Appalachian State couldn't stop NC State, as the Wolfpack's offense was outstanding. Shooting a blistering 67% for the game, NC State hit 18-of 24 shots (75%) in the second half.

Cedric Simmons hit a layup with 14 minutes left to give the Wolfpack a 52-38 lead, and the basket started a 23-10 run over the next seven minutes that put the game out of reach. Gavin Grant's spinning layup gave NC State a 75-48 advantage and enabled the Wolfpack to cruise the rest of the way.

Leading NC State in scoring was sophomore Andrew Brackman. Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Brackman tallied a season-high 16 points and six rebounds. Cameron Bennerman added 13 points while Grant and Evtimov chipped in 11.

Engin Atsur had six points and six assists with no turnovers, and Tony Bethel played stellar defense on ASU's D.J. Thompson. Thompson, a 5-foot-8 junior from Raleigh, came into the contest averaging 18 points a game, but Bethel held him to just 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field and forced five turnovers.

Freshmen Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells also played well for the Wolfpack. McCauley scored 10 points and grabbed two boards, and Fells totaled eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field in just six minutes of action. Coach Sendek praised their efforts and attitudes following the game.

"I thought both of those guys were terrific today," he said. "It starts with their attitudes. Neither guy played against Notre Dame or Iowa and they didn't flinch. They just came to practice and worked even harder.

"I thought both of those guys really played well today, and I actually commended both of them in front of the team."

Anytime a team can shoot 67% from the floor, hit 11-of-21 3-pointers, and total 20 assists, most coaches would be happy, but Sendek admits NC State still has a lot to work on.

"We probably fouled too much in the second half... we gave up 11 points at the foul line," he said. "I don't want to give up any second shots. We've got to do a better job with that, there's no question.

"But we're moving in the right direction. I really thought we had good practices over the last ten days since we played at Iowa. There's no question in my mind that we moved forward and we got better. We are also very aware of the fact that we've got to continue to do that because we are not where we need to be. But, we have really good guys who are working their tails off and are fun to coach."

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