The spots of red that dotted the stadium started up a Wolfpack cheer in the final minutes, a salute to Sidney Lowe's first conference and first road win of his career. Lowe and the Pack picked up the double-dose of firsts on Saturday afternoon with an 88-74 win over Wake Forest.
"Anytime you can win in the ACC it's a great feeling," Lowe said. "And as the first one with these guys together, and as a coach, it feels great. I know its just one ballgame but anytime you have to be proud of yourself anytime you go on the road and win in the ACC."
Using an eight-man rotation for the first time all season, the Wolfpack (11-6, 1-3 ACC) was able to turn up the defensive intensity against the Demon Deacons (9-7, 1-3). The Pack forced 22 turnovers, scoring 19 points off the mistakes and kept the Deacons out of their offensive rhythm.
"Our defense really fueled our offense," junior Gavin Grant said. "We got some breaks, we were able to get out and get some baskets."
The Pack's defense also shutdown the Deacon's senior leader, Kyle Visser. After scoring five of Wake's first seven points, Visser had just six more points the entire game as the Pack denied the post and kept the Deacs leading scorer at bay.
"We were concentrating on him the whole game," McCauley said. "We knew he was the guy to stop. He's carried that team, and he's a great player. We just figured if we put pressure on their guards and make it hard for them to pass it in then we would be fine."
All five Pack starters scored in double figures, led by Gavin Grant with 24 and Courtney Fells with 20. Brandon Costner added 17, Ben McCauley scored 13 and freshman Dennis Horner had 12.
But the bench players, who combined for only two points, also gave the Pack a lift. Bryan Neiman saw significant minutes for the first time in nearly a month, but he hit a basket in the paint, had a pair of steals, some big rebounds and even drew a charge. Darrell Davis also saw his first real action of the season, getting six minutes.
"Coming from football you're in a football mode," Davis said. "I think it was just a matter of getting comfortable with your surroundings, the coaches and the players."
With a legitimate player rotation, Lowe told his players not to worry so much about fouls and just go hard on defense. State had some minor foul trouble with its big men in the first half, but benefited from the more aggressive play. Lowe said he would have to start rotating new players into the lineup if he expected to keep his starters fresh for the rigorous ACC schedule.
"That's how we are going to have to play because otherwise we are going to wear our starters down," Lowe said.
The Wolfpack jumped out ahead from the opening tip, not letting up through the whole first half. Courtney Fells came out of the gate shooting, hitting 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-8 from behind the 3-point line for 16 first-half points.
"Sometimes in games I'm a little hesitant," Fells said. "But coach told me I'm a shooter, so just let it fly whenever you're comfortable. So that's what I did."
Wake Forest didn't lead after scoring the first basket of the game, and State really took control with a 9-0 run midway through the half. By the time the buzzer sounded the Deacs trailed 50-32. The 18-point margin was the biggest halftime lead for the Pack this season.
The Deacons made a bit of a run late in the second half, but never got closer than 12 points. The Pack stayed ahead by shooting lights-out, 68 percent in the second half, to secure the win.
"We needed it," McCauley said. "There was no way we were going to go 0-4."