Pack Too Much For Bulldogs

RALEIGH, NC -- No. 19 NC State (7-1) had no problems with UNC-Asheville (1-5), as the Wolfpack won 86-56 behind 19 points from Ilian Evtimov.

  • Herb Sendek Audio
  • Eddie Biedenbach Audio
  • Wolfpack Players Audio
  • Box Score

    NC State can't play much better than it has the past two games. In Saturday's annual Heritage Game, the Wolfpack shot 67% from the field and limited Appalachian State to just 36% shooting an won by 26 points.

    Tonight the Pack again played well on both ends of the floor, shooting 56.1% from the field with 26 assists on 32 made field goals, a stat which obviously pleased head coach Herb Sendek.

    "I thought our guys really continued to play unselfish basketball," Sendek said. "I think that is evident by the fact that on our 32 field goals we had 26 assists. I thought guys really looked to share the basketball and make each other better."

    NC State also generated 20 fast break points, including a pair of dynamite dunks by senior Cameron Bennerman. Some fans and media writers often label the Wolfpack a slow and deliberate team that prefers to play a halfcourt offense, but Sendek believes that isn't the case at all.

    "It's just a component of our Princeton offense," he joked when asked about the transition points. "Like I've been saying, we always talk about [transition basketball]. Sometimes we don't execute it or sometimes we don't get it because the defense is back, but despite some's propensity to put labels on things, we're fine scoring in transition if the opportunity presents itself.

    "Tonight it was available, and we took advantage of it, even though the shot clock wasn't expiring."

    NC State's blueprint for success is simple. The Wolfpack wants efficient offense with balanced scoring and an aggressive defense that attacks opposing offenses, and tonight that's just what they accomplished. Six Wolfpack players scored in double figures, with Ilian Evtimov's 19 points leading the way. Bennerman chipped in 14 points, and Gavin Grant added 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Tony Bethel and Engin Atsur had 11 each while Cedric Simmons added 10 points and three blocks.

    Atsur had a very good game for the Wolfpack, as he also tallied nine assists and five steals while committing just one turnover. Since struggling at Iowa two weeks ago, Atsur has totaled 15 assists and just one turnover in his last two games.

    "[Engin] is a great competitor," Sendek said. "Nobody felt worse about Iowa than he did. Over the course of his career he really has been the model of consistency. With Engin you basically know what you are going to get night in and night out."

    Perhaps the key to NC State's recent play has been the development of Simmons in the paint. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is intimidating on the defensive end and a scorer and above-average passer on the low block. Fans have often criticized Sendek and his offensive philosophy for not attempting to establish a post presence, but in recent games the offense has ran through the post.

    "There is always a place in anybody's offense for a good low post player," Sendek said. "You can't name one offense that has ever been constructed that isn't better when there is good low post play. Princeton, Georgia, Vermont, Tennessee offense, you name it. It's better when there is a good low post game, and Cedric has certainly showed great improvement."

    After holding his team to 36% shooting, UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach didn't want to talk about the Wolfpack's offense. He praised their defensive effort.

    "It was not a very good game for UNC-Asheville," Biedenbach said. "We didn't play well tonight. Several of our players didn't play well, but we're going to be a good team by the time we get to our league.

    "They have good athletes. Herb does a great job. Herb is a very, very good coach. We didn't execute. You have to execute offense when guys play you tough.

    "Herb is a good defensive coach, and they emphasize it. Those guys are strong, and they are in good shape. Vince Lombardi had a great statement. He said, 'Fatigue makes cowards of us all.' NC State is not going to be cowards because they are in shape and are going to play defense all night long. Defensively they are tough."

    Biedenbach and the Bulldogs faced NC State last year, and he believes this year's version just might be better, even without Julius Hodge.

    "State people aren't going to say this, and this is no knock on Julius Hodge, but they are a better team," he said. "Not without Julius, they are a better team because Brackman, Simmons, all those guys are a year older. This is a better basketball team. They have four good guards. A couple of them are really forwards trying to play guards and defensively they are excellent. Offensively they got some work to do for this league.

    "I think this is a better NC State team than the team last year because of the maturity of Simmons and Brackman. Also, those other guards, Bethel and the rest of them, are really good."

    Following the 30-point victory, NC State now has three days to prepare for the ACC season opener against the Miami Hurricanes. Miami (6-3) is coming off a 71-40 win over Wofford College and upset the Wolfpack last season in the only meeting between the two teams.

    "I still have a bad taste in my mouth," Bennerman replied when asked about last year's one-point loss to Miami. "I took that last shot, I wasn't really ready to take that shot. I will be ready for this upcoming game, and I'm sure the team will be too. Our coaching staff does a good job of preparing us."

    "We want to start our ACC season off on the right foot," added Grant. "We definitely want Miami because they beat us last year by one point. We're definitely looking forward to that game."

    Pleased with his team's play against UNC-Asheville, Sendek pointed out that he continues to see positive progress.

    "I think for the most part it was a good effort. Our team has continued to work hard in practice. Tonight included I see signs that we are continuing to get better."

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