State Upsets Michigan, 74-67

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Four players scored in double figures as NC State upset Michigan 74-67 in the opening game of the 2006 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

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    But the Pack may also have suffered its first big loss.

    Senior guard Engin Atsur pulled his left hamstring after driving to the basket at around the 15-minute mark of the first half, struggling to even walk back to the bench before time was called. From there he went straight to the NC State locker room and did not play the rest of the game, though he did return to the bench in the second half.

    "I've got to go in and talk to the doctors, find out exactly what happened," coach Sidney Lowe said. "I just saw him coming out limping."

    Brandon Costner led the way for the Wolfpack with 17 points and 11 rebounds, his second straight double-double. Ben McCauley added a team-high 19 points and eight boards, while both Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells were in double figures with 15 and 10 respectively. The win keeps the Pack (5-0) undefeated on the young season and gives the Wolverines (7-1) its first loss.

    "This is a huge win," Lowe said. "It's big for just the confidence factor. Doing it without our point guard. It tells our guys that if we play hard, if we play with that energy then we can be successful."

    State trailed for much of the first half as Michigan dominated the boards early and the Pack struggled to find offensive rhythm. The game looked like it would turn into a blowout as the Pack trailed by 12-points and Atsur walked to the locker room, but the team responded to the loss of its point guard with better execution on both sides of the ball. The Pack locked down on defense, forcing the Wolverines outside by switching away from man-to-man into a zone.

    "We knew they weren't a really good 3-point shooting team so we tried to play zone," Grant said. "The zone was working, Brandon and Ben did a heck of a job inside."

    Michigan struggled on offense for the rest of the half, with the Wolfpack taking the lead on a Costner 3-pointer with 4:20 left and stretched its lead to seven by the break. Former walk-on Bryan Neiman, playing in place of the injured Atsur, came through with eight points, six rebounds and even a team-high two blocks.

    "There's no pressure," Neiman said. "You don't get a chance to really think about it when your out there. I didn't think about it until halftime when I found out he wasn't coming back into the game."

    State didn't let up after halftime, though. The team came out and promptly built on its lead, out-hustling and out-rebounding the bigger Wolverine team. By the 12-minute mark, a Courtney Fells free-throw gave the Pack a 21-point lead. Michigan rallied from there, cutting the deficit to nine with four minutes left. But State ground out the win, putting the game away in the final minute despite a bevy of turnovers and missed free-throws.

    "We had a 20-point lead and only won by five or six," Grant said. "You see the immaturity out there – but once this team matures we are going to be a really good basketball team."

    State will play its first road game and first conference game of the season when it takes on No. 25 Virginia in Charlottesville on Sunday.


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