"It seemed like they were trying to foul at one point," Gavin Grant said. "There were a lot of calls that weren't made – it could have been even more."
The Bearcats committed 35 fouls, 24 of those in the second half, and the Wolfpack converted on 37-of-50 attempts as it picked up its third straight win with a 85-77 win over the Bearcats at the RBC Center. The Pack needed all of its 37 makes in this game.
"We have really been concentrating a lot in practice on our free-throw shooting," Courtney Feels said. "We just wanted to go up there and knock it down and have the confidence to keep putting points on the board."
The Pack never lost the lead during the second half, but got a scare when the Cats cut it to three points with just over three minutes remaining. But a J.J. Hickson dunk and five straight points from Grant squelched the would-be comeback, then the Pack hit its final six free-throw attempts to put the game out of reach.
"Our guys came in and finished the ballgame for us," Lowe said. "We were able to just finish the game."
The Pack suffered a potentially devastating loss as well, when starting point guard Farnold Degand went down late in the second half. Degand drove to the basket and was fouled, then came down awkwardly on his left knee. He immediately called for the trainer and said that 'it bent the wrong way,' but he returned to the bench with an ice pack and watched the last few minutes of the game.
"I'm not sure how bad it is right now, I haven't talked to doc yet," Lowe said.
Freshman Javi Gonzalez replaced Degand in the line-up and helped maintain the Pack's slim advantage down the stretch – hitting a couple of key free throws and getting the ball through the Bearcats' full-court press.
"What I was really impressed with was when we huddled up and he was talking to his teammates about getting stops and making plays," Lowe said. "Just trying to take on some leadership roles."
The Pack committed just 10 turnovers on the game, a far cry from last season's visit to Cincinnati when State had an incredible 32 turnovers in a loss. The team had just three first-half turnovers but had a little more trouble with the press later in the game.
"I thought we did a nice job," Lowe said. "They are very aggressive, they're active, they were everything."
Brandon Costner led all scorers with 20 points and got the Pack off to a hot start by hitting a couple of early 3-pointers. Costner helped lead a dynamic offensive performance in the first half, where the Pack had nine assists on 12 field goals. State was unable to repeat that success in the second half, thanks mostly to the wave of fouls the Cats committed.
"I was really happy with the way the offense was going in the first half," Gavin said. "People were getting open shots, the ball was moving like a hot potato."
After a short Christmas break, the Pack will travel to Seton Hall on Thursday evening as it looks to get on a four game winning streak for the first time all season.