"His 24 points certainly helped us a great deal but his rebounding was key," Lowe said. "He just got in there and really dominated the inside."
Costner has struggled with his shot at times this year but hit 8-of-14 from the field and a near-perfect 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in his biggest offensive outburst of the season. The junior forward credited the performance to extra work in practice and a little luck.
"I came in and the opportunity presented itself," Costner said. "I just took advantage."
McCauley added 20 of his own in the win while Tracy Smith was the only other Pack (6-1) player in double figures with 11 points off the bench. The Pack used its advantage inside to help get the Pirates in major foul trouble. Three East Carolina (8-2) players fouled out of the game and one other played with four fouls for a long stretch in the second half. McCauley said the win avenges last year's upset loss to the Pirates in Greenville.
"It's a great feeling right now," McCauley said. "We wanted to win this not only for ourselves but for our fans because we feel like we let them down when we went down there last year. I think it was some sweet revenge."
Courtney Fells missed his second-straight game due to an ankle injury suffered in practice. Fells is the Pack's second leading scorer, averaging 13.6 points a game but Lowe said he is uncertain when the senior forward will return.
"I wanna say its day-to-day," Lowe said. "He didn't look good yesterday so I'm really not sure, we're not sure when he's coming back."
Simon Harris started his second straight game in place of Fells, hitting an early 3-pointer and setting the tone on defense for the Pack. Harris, son of assistant coach Larry Harris, called getting a start for the Wolfpack a 'dream come true'.
"I've wanted to do this since I was nine years old," Harris said. "Whenever dad came in with Herb's staff, I've wanted to be a Wolfpacker, this is just a dream come true. I was at a loss earlier when coach told me I was going to start the other day and it came again today."
Costner came out on fire to start the game, hitting the first three shots of the game including a pair of 3s to jump the Pack out in front. The home team led most of the half but lost the lead for brief stretches thanks to porous perimeter defense – the Pirates hit 6-of-11 from behind the arc in the half. But the Pack's offense was just as hot, including a half-court buzzer-beater from Javi Gonzalez that gave his team a 45-42 lead at the break.
The Pack used the momentum from the half-court heave to jump out to a 15-2 start to the second half. The defense vastly improved in the second, especially from the perimeter, as the Pirates hit just 2-for-15 in the second half from behind the arc after a hot first half. The Pirates made it interesting late thanks to the stellar play of point guard Brock Young, who led all scorers with 25 points but also dished out six assists and grabbed eight rebounds.
"Halftime we really sat down and realized that we can't keep trading baskets and we need to lock down on 'D'," Costner said. "That's been our MO throughout the year is defense and we kind of forgot about that in the first half so we really needed to come out and set the tone in the second half."
The Pack is in the midst of a six game home stand, and the team will face Lipscomb at 2pm on Saturday before taking on Marquette next Monday. The Pack is undefeated at home in the early stages of the season.