The contrast between old and new was in full display on Saturday night for NC State.
There was the old. Reynolds Coliseum, home of plenty of historic Wolfpack victories. Pieces of both championship teams in attendance as Sidney Lowe and David Thompson watched.
Then there was the new. Lowe patrolling the sidelines in his first season as head coach of the basketball team. A few feet away sat Tom O'Brien, the just announced head football coach for the Pack.
Playing its annual 'Heritage game' at Reynolds, the Pack struggled early but regained control to coast past visiting Savannah State by a 74-53 score. The Pack (6-2) is a perfect 5-0 in its annual Reynolds contests.
"It's not the first time I played here, but its the most I've played here," senior Gavin Grant said. "It was definitely fun I enjoy Reynolds, its real hot out there, the crowd seems so close. It's a good experience – I wish we could play Duke and Carolina here but I think we'd lose a little bit of money."
Grant led all scorers with 19 points while Costner added 18 for the Pack. Two other players, Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells scored in double figures with 15 and 11 respectively. Two players, Grant and Brian Neiman, played all 40 minutes of the game.
Lowe, coaching his first regular season game at Reynolds, didn't say anything to the players about his days in the Old Barn before the game.
"I didn't talk about my days here," Lowe said. "What I did talk about is what its gonna sound like. It gets loud here, its gonna be hot. The crowd is gonna be loud. You should be excited to play – its history right here."
Despite the warning from coach Lowe, the Pack came out sluggish to start the game, letting the Tigers (5-7) to jump out to a quick 9-0 lead. Lowe called a quick timeout to refocus his team after the unexpectedly dead start.
"I'm not sure what it was. We weren't active though," Lowe said "We had a good practice yesterday and today we were very focused in shoot around. I thought we would come out with a lot of energy. But they punched us, they punched us first."
State woke up after taking the first blow, going on a 14-0 run of its own to take the lead. Savannah State stayed close though thanks to its workmanlike job on the offensive glass, pulling down five offensive rebounds in the half. But the Pack still managed to take a 32-28 lead into the break, thanks to a near perfect 11-of-12 performance from the free-throw line.
"They played very well in the first couple of minutes there. They came out firing," McCauley said. "But once we got situated, kind of got into the flow of the offense I think we took care of things."
As this Pack team seems to be in the habit of doing, State came out of the break with a renewed sense of purpose, stretching the lead to as much as 11 in the first 10 minutes of the half. The Pack was able to pull away with its impressive performance from the free-throw line, where the team shot 25-of-27 for 93 percent. After struggling from the line to start the season, State has shot over 90 percent in each of the last three contests.
"He puts on the line after practice every game," McCauley said. "He puts us at the line and that's one thing we have really been concentrating on."
The Pack controlled the boards in the second half and maintained its huge advantage at the line as it continued to stretch its lead, never giving the Tigers any hint of a comeback. Grant highlighted the game with a monster reverse dunk on a fast break with three minutes remaining, putting the margin at 21 points.
"The game was real slow," Grant said. "I thought the crowd needed that to enjoy the Heritage game. I'm glad we were able to get it in there for them."