Fans roared when Sidney Lowe came out wearing the famous red jacket. They booed lustily and chanted when referees went against NC State. And they saved one last standing ovation for the Wolfpack team as it walked off the court with a 69-62 win over Marist in the second round of the NIT on Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum.
"I love Reynolds," Grant said. "Loud as hell in there. It was packed today – I just absolutely loved it."
The Pack was forced to play in its old home because of a scheduling conflict at the RBC Center, and the tickets to the game at the smaller on-campus facility quickly sold out. Lowe, who played in Reynolds, echoed Gavin's sentiment about the former home of Wolfpack basketball.
"When those guys walked up there on that floor those [fans] were going crazy," Lowe said. "It's this building – its Reynolds. Our fans get in here and they go crazy. Anyone who's played in the ACC and played in this building against NC State, they'll tell you."
The Reynolds atmosphere created a hostile environment that off on the Wolfpack players, who picked up two technical fouls in the game. Dennis Horner was assessed a technical for his reaction to a call in the first half and Brandon Costner fouled out late in the second half on a technical for his reaction to a foul.
"Brandon told me a kid pushed him in the back," Grant said. "Then [Costner] said 'one more time' – I don't think he deserved a tech for that. He didn't pushed him, he didn't retaliate, he was just telling him that if he did that again they had a problem."
The play deteriorated in the final two minutes, as Marist went to a full court press defense and fouled when the Pack got the ball in bounds. The last two minutes on the clock took a full 30 minutes in real time to play out, as the Red Foxes fought and clawed to the end – much to the angst of the crowd on hand.
"That was the longest minute and a half I've ever played of basketball," Grant said. "There were some questionable plays down the stretch."
Ben McCauley led all scorers with 19 points and also picked up his second straight double-double with 10 rebounds. Grant also had a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards while Engin Atsur added 12 points and Costner scored 10 points. The Wolfpack shot 52 percent from the field compared just to just 30 percent for the Red Foxes, and the Pack also out-rebounded Marist by a 40-30 margin.
With the win the Pack moves on to the next round of the NIT, traveling to West Virginia for a Tuesday night re-match with the Mountaineers. The two clubs met earlier in the year, with West Virginia pulling out a 71-60 victory in a game the Pack played without Atsur. Coach Lowe said he's thought about how the season might be different if he had his senior floor general healthy the entire time.
"I did once, we won every game we played," Lowe said. "I mean you wonder but its hard for me to do that because of what these guys have accomplished. It's amazing in itself."
Despite the rowdy Reynolds crowd behind them, the Pack got off to a sluggish start. Marist hit a quick trio of 3-point shots to jump out to an 11-4 lead, as James Smith hit two quick shots from behind the arc.
But the Pack answered decisively, going on a 23-4 run to take control. State hit on a sizzling 56 percent of its shots, while Marist went ice cold after the first few minutes – shooting just 24 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc. The Wolfpack's also dominated the glass, grabbing 20 rebounds to just 10 for the Red Foxes, helping the Pack take a 33-19 lead into the break.
The Red Foxes wouldn't roll over though, cutting the lead to as little as six points in the second half. Marist continued to launch 3-pointer after 3-pointer at the Wolfpack defense, finishing the game 9-of-32 from behind the arc.
"Our defense was very good – especially on the perimeter," Lowe said.