"It was the greatest feeling of my life," Fells said.
Ben McCauley drifted through the crowd with a smile beaming from ear-to-ear as fans gave high-fives and pats on the back to the sophomore big man.
"I watch that on TV all the time," Ben McCauley said. "I think to myself 'man, that would be great if I could be a part of that someday.' Sure enough we were today."
Sidney Lowe tried to get back to the locker room but was bombarded by a slew of congratulations from students, alumni and even former players. Lowe had just orchestrated the unthinkable, guiding NC State to an stunning 83-79 upset over heavily-favored No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
"I told our kids this is more than just a win for us," Lowe said. "This is a win for a lot of people, and I'm glad we were fortunate to play well enough to win this game."
The Wolfpack pulled off the upset by outworking the Heels on both ends of the court. The Pack led for most of the game, never got rattled by repeated comeback attempts and played with more intensity than the opposition from start to finish. After the game, Carolina coach Roy Williams called his team 'fat and happy'. No state shows the Pack's superior effort better than rebounds, where the smaller Pack out-boarded a team that came into the game leading the nation in rebounding margin.
"We just wanted it more than they did," McCauley said. "We just came out here and wanted to make a statement that we can win some games. We played like we wanted it and we got it."
The Pack got big games out of every member of the starting five, led by Fells' 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Gavin Grant had 16, McCauley added 17 and Costner put up his sixth double-double of the year with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Engin Atsur also registered a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists from the point while committing just four turnovers. The Pack is now 2-1 in three games since Atsur returned from the hamstring injury that kept him out for nearly two months.
"Things are well composed with Atsur [on the court]," Fells said. "He's a great player, and a great shooter. He knocked down some shots for us and he just keeps everyone level-headed at all times."
The Pack played almost perfectly on the offensive end, shooting 61 percent from the game and going 14-of-17 from the field in the second half. The Tar Heels haven't let a team shoot that well against them since last year's ACC Tournament against Boston College.
"The main thing is that we executed the offense," Lowe said. "We ran the offense and we were patient in it, and when you do that hopefully your going to get a high percentage shot. Fortunately for us we were able to make them."
On defense, the Pack managed to slow down the tempo - interrupting Carolina's up-and-down style. In the halfcourt they were able to frustrate Carolina's All-American big man, Tyler Hansbrough. Though he finished with a game-high 24 points, McCauley and Costner took turns banging bodies with him all afternoon to keep the sophomore from getting position in the low post.
"Early on we were getting him off the post," McCauley said. "We just wanted to go chest-to-chest and make him make the shots."
Hansbrough's frustration boiled over late in the second half, when Costner pulled a rebound away from the big man. Hansbrough responded with a half swing in the direction of Costner and was whistled for a technical, though he said after the game he was just swiping at the ball.
"Yeah I kind of frustrated him then," Costner said. "I guess because I was boxing him out – not too many people box him out I guess."
With the win, Lowe becomes the only first-year coach at NC State to defeat an opponent ranked as highly as the Tar Heels. Lowe debuted a Wolfpack-red jacket for the occasion, saying the decision to go with the new look was 'no coincidence.'
"I think it was just time – I had to wear it one time," Lowe said. "You'll see it again."