Brandon Costner was nearly unstoppable. Scoring from all over the court and dominating the glass, the redshirt freshman finished with 27 points and 19 rebounds, both career highs.
"I should have had 20 [rebounds]," Costner said.
Costner, who had a double-double by the half, combined with sophomore Ben McCauley to give the Pack a relatively easy 72-51 win over UNC Wilmington on Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center.
McCauley might have had the best all-around game of his career, with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He also contributed the most electrifying play of the day, when McCauley threw down a monstrous one-handed jam on an alley-oop pass from Gavin Grant. The pass was high, but the right-handed McCauley stretched out with his left arm, snared the ball with one hand and slammed it home in one motion.
"I thought it was way out of bounds," coach Sidney Lowe said. "It was an unbelievable play by Ben. He puts himself in that position because he runs the floor."
After having to battle till the buzzer against East Carolina two nights ago, Saturday's win was refreshingly easier for the Pack. They took an eight point lead into the half and never allowed the Seahawks to sustain any momentum.
"It was good to get rolling again," McCauley said. "We had a scare against ECU, but that was also a wake-up call coming off of Christmas break. We knew we had to put teams away."
The Pack scored just six points in the first six minutes of the game, but quickly picked up the pace. Costner was all over the court for the Pack with 19 points and 10 rebounds by halftime. Costner's play helped make up for the absence of Grant, who played just 12 minutes in the half after picking up two quick fouls.
Poor shooting by the Seahawks gave the Pack opportunities to run, and State took advantage, taking a 33-25 lead into the break. Wilmington shot just 27 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, while State hit on 48 percent of its shots.
"I thought our guards really did a nice job of keeping pressure once they got it across halfcourt," Lowe said. "It helped our big guys to force their bigs off the box. Ben and Brandon did a great job inside of just changing up and changing angles. They just really made them work."
The Pack kept the pressure on in the second half, as the Pack stretched the lead to 15, then 20. McCauley and Costner continued their dominance, and Gavin Grant got rolling at the end of the half, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the final 10 minutes.
Trevor Ferguson returned after sitting out on Thursday with the flu. He played 19 minutes, hitting his only shot – a 3-pointer from the right corner in the second half. Darrell Davis, a walk-on from the football team that started practicing with the Pack at the beginning of the month, saw his first action of the season in the final minute but missed on his two field goal attempts.
The Pack is still without point guard Engin Atsur, who remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Lowe said he hopes that Atsur can 'do something' by Tuesday, when the Pack hosts UNC Greensboro.
"We talked about a certain time period," Lowe said. "And we'll wait to see then. Tuesday is big for us – we'd like for him to get some action."