Hornets No Match For Wolfpack

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Brandon Costner scored a career-high 20 points as NC State defeated Delaware State 63-43.

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    After three straight slams and one free throw by Gavin Grant, the RBC Center was rocking, the 1st half was over, and it was clear to all in attendance that a new brand of Wolfpack basketball had arrived. NC State started strong and never looked back, opening the game with a highlight-filled 13-4 run before extending its lead to 37-22, on the heels of Grant's personal 7-2 run to close the half. Grant's series of breakaway dunks came on aggressive outlet passes by Bryan Nieman and Ben McCauley, and pushed the Pack to a 15-point advantage, one which the Hornets would never close.

    Leading the way early and often was Brandon Costner, who totaled 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. 12 of those points were in the first half, as the 6-foot-8 forward capitalized on a defensive mismatch against the Hornets 6-foot-5 power forward, Troy Roundtree. The former McDonalds All-American was a force on the boards as well, leading the way with six rebounds.

    In all, NC State tallied 36 points in the paint. Center Ben McCauley couldn't match his 26 points in the season opener, but totaled a career-high and team-high seven assists, coming from several attacking outlet passes as well as frequent passes to cutters from the high post.

    The Wolfpack was determined to create points in transition, was aggressive on defense from the opening tip, and held the Hornets to 34% shooting on the night. Delaware State failed to impose its deliberate tempo on the Wolfpack and struggled defensively to slow the State down. On offense, Sidney Lowe's squad operated efficiently and with great patience, shooting 64% from the field and converting 10 points off turnovers in the first half. Like in the season opener, Lowe's offense again showcased an emphasis on sharing the ball, as the team tallied 20 total assists.

    However, persistence on the part of Delaware State and sloppiness on the part of NC State enabled the Hornets to cut the lead to 14, 55-41, with 4:31 to go. The Hornets would collect all 16 of its points off turnovers in the second half, as NC State had 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. But Delaware State never seriously threatened, and a McCauley dunk in traffic helped NC State easily take back control and pull away.

    Much of the game seemed like a Wolfpack highlight reel, with plenty of fast breaks and close to a dozen dunks by the team.

    The best highlight again may have come from Fells. On Delaware State's third possession of the game, Fells stole the ball from star Hornets guard Jahsha Bluntt, passed ahead to Atsur, then raced downcourt and hammered down a one-handed tomahawk dunk in traffic. Like in the season opener, Fells was a demon on defense, all but shutting down Bluntt, a 2005 All-American honorable mention and preseason MEAC player of the year, as he held him to 3-of-14 shooting. Fells finished the game with a with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, to go with five rebounds.

    After an escaping with an unexpectedly tough win last Friday against Wofford, this matchup was anticipated to be an even tougher test for the Wolfpack. Delaware State is the defending regular season champs of the MEAC, returned all five starters, and added Cincinnati transfer Roy Bright to this year's starting lineup. Area fans may remember the 6-foot-6 Bright as a heralded recruit from Durham (NC) Mt. Zion Christian Academy. Bright has stepped in to Hornets starting lineup and immediately produced, leading the Hornets with 13.5 points per game. However, the local product struggled against Gavin Grant, only shooting 4-for-15 on the night.

    Next up for NC State (2-0) is another dangerous mid-major foe, Valparaiso (2-0), at 7 pm next Tuesday.

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