'Sluggish' Pack downs Loyola, 62-60

Raleigh, NC -- NC State blew a 15-points second half lead but managed to escape the RBC Center with a 62-60 win over Loyola on Monday night.

Most of the NC State cheerleaders were in Alabama. So was the band. The RBC Center was less than half full.

But the Wolfpack basketball team just looked like it was hundreds of miles away. Coming off a week-long The Pack put together its worst effort of the season, barely getting by visiting Loyola 62-60 on Monday night. The Pack defense had to come up with a big stop in the final seconds to keep from repeating the results from a week ago, when the team lost on a buzzer-beater by Marquette.

"Obviously you don't want to win by two against a small team like that," Ben McCauley said. "I'm not taking anything away from them but we were a little sluggish. Coming off the break a lot of guys went home, a lot of traveling involved but you can't make any excuses. You have to be ready to play come game time."

The numbers don't show a game that should have been as close. The Pack (8-2) out-rebounded Loyola (4-8), out-shot them and took 20 more free throws. But with a minute left the Greyhounds trailed by just a point, and only a poor final possession kept them from escaping the RBC Center with a win.

"Being able to get a stop down the stretch is key." head coach Sidney Lowe said. "That's huge to winning ball games. Sometimes it comes down to the last shot and sometime it might come down to the possession prior to that."

McCauley led the Pack with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Courtney Fells and Brandon Costner each added 11 points. Fells did not participate in the morning shoot around after re-aggravating his ankle injury earlier in the week, but ended up leading the team with 35 minutes played.

"I tell you what – first thing is hats off and a lot of respect for Courtney Fells because he was scheduled not to play," Lowe said. "Had he not played, I just don't know. He got in there and he played 30-something minutes for us today."

The Pack came out firing, jumping out to a 18-4 lead behind the shooting of Dennis Horner and the inside play of Ben McCauley. But the Greyhounds fought back as the Pack struggled to find any offense, allowing Loyola to rip off a quick 11-2 run to get the visitors right back into the game. The Greyhounds even managed to grab the lead late in the half, going up 27-26 before the Pack pulled even at 29 each going into the break.

"Hopefully we learned a lot from having that lead and not securing it, not taking care of the ball and playing defense," Lowe said. "We relaxed in both areas – both offensively and defensively."

It was the same story repeated in the second half with the Pack coming out full of energy and seemingly ready to put away the Greyhounds. They stretched out a 15-point lead with eight minutes left in the game only to watch the visitors whittle away at it again. The Pack scored eight points in the final eight minutes, making just one field goal in that stretch but still managed to escape with a win.

"We were just in a dog fight," Lowe said. "I'm just thankful we were able to get out of there with a 'W.'"

The Pack has one more game at home on Wednesday afternoon against Towson before going on a two-game road swing to Florida and then kicking off ACC play at Clemson.

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