Crimson Tide Holds Off Pack, 82-75

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Richard Hendrix scored 23 points and Ronald Steele added 14 as No. 10 Alabama defeated NC State 82-75. Brandon Costner totaled 25 points to lead the Wolfpack.

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    NC State had one last gasp.

    After trailing by as much as 23 in the second half, Brandon Costner's off-balance 3-pointer from the corner put the Pack within six points with 21 seconds remaining as the RBC Center crowd roared.

    "I put my hands on my head and I was like 'Wow, maybe we can pull this out, this is pretty amazing,'" sophomore Ben McCauley said.

    But it was just too little, too late for the Wolfpack, as the Crimson Tide held on during the final seconds to beat the Pack 82-75 on Wednesday night.

    "I was proud of their effort down the stretch," Lowe said. "They tried to make the right plays – they made all the hustle plays. There are definitely some positives."

    The Pack (7-3) played its fifth straight game without Engin Atsur. The senior had targeted Wednesday night as a comeback but still hasn't practiced or done any exercises outside of the pool. The Pack missed the presence of the veteran guard more than ever against Alabama (10-1), as careless turnovers plagued the team all evening.

    "No question about it," Lowe said. "You've got a guy there that 99.9 percent of the time is going to make the right decision. We sorely miss him."

    Costner led all scorers with 25 points, while McCauley scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the losing effort. Gavin Grant added 10 assists and eight boards, but struggled from the field, shooting 3-of-14 and scoring just seven points.

    "I'm thinking that my job is to get people the ball," Grant said. "I shot a couple and I didn't make them so I wasn't going to force them. I was just trying to pass people the ball and get guys shots."

    The Crimson Tide jumped out to a quick lead to start the game, complimenting its strong inside game with hot shooting. The Pack couldn't contain Alabama's Richard Hendrix, who shot 6-of-7 from the floor in the half and finished the game with 23 points and 12 rebounds. All five Alabama starters finished in double-figures.

    "We moved the ball and got it where we wanted to," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We knew they weren't very deep inside and we took advantage of that."

    Trevor Ferguson, making his first appearance for the Wolfpack, got a rousing ovation from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time at the 10-minute mark. The redshirt freshman finished with three points and five assists.

    "I could have done better," Ferguson said. "But its my first game back so you have to get used to everything, just playing with the guys. It was fun though." State made a couple of small runs, but failed to mount a sustained comeback in the half as open 3-pointers clanked off the rim. The Pack shot just 2-of-11 from behind the arc, and just 41 percent overall, as Alabama took a 39-27 lead into the break.

    "We were shooting some quick shots," Grant said. "That's just us being a young team. We'll mature and learn from this game and get a little better."

    After shooting 56 percent from the field in the first half, Alabama cooled off during the second half, hitting just 34 percent of its shots. But the Pack again struggled on the glass, giving the Crimson Tide easy put-backs in the paint as the visitors stretched the lead to as many as 23 points before the Pack made its comeback.

    "They are beasts," McCauley said. "It was a battle, I knew it was going to be. We scouted them and knew they were going to go after the rebounds. Unfortunately they got a couple of rebounds and just stretched their lead."

    The Pack's late resurgence came as the team pushed tempo, created some quick scores and forced some sloppy Alabama turnovers. "We really started pushing the ball more," Ferguson said. "Something we probably should have done from the beginning of the game because I don't think their bigs could run with our bigs. We did a good job of battling back, we just couldn't pull it out at the end."

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