Pack bounces back, downs Crusaders 87-70

RALEIGH, NC -- NC State rebounded from its heart-breaking loss to Florida, using a 16-3 run at the start of the second half to help down Holy Cross 87-70 on Wednesday night at the RBC Center.

If any player was going to be deflated by Saturday's loss, it was Farnold Degand. While he was hardly the only player to miss a free throw, his miss in the final seconds allowed the now infamous shot to be a game-winner.

"It was definitely hard [to forget]," Degand said. "I was thinking about it the whole time we were off."

Yet Degand shrugged it off once he stepped onto the court on Wednesday night, putting together his best performance of the season against Holy Cross. The senior guard became the offensive catalyst for NC State in the second half, pushing the ball up the court and penetrating against the zone defense. Degand's aggressive play helped the Wolfpack down the Crusaders 87-70 in the Pack's final tune-up before ACC season gets into full swing.

"Farnold has actually played well the last three or four ballgames," Sidney Lowe said. "He's really given us that boost that we needed."

Degand finished with 12 points but also dished out nine assists and had just two turnovers. Tracy Smith again led the Pack in scoring with 19 points including a 9-of-10 performance on the free-throw line. Dennis Horner scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half and added six rebounds and four blocks as well. Horner, who injured his knee against Florida, wore a sleeve on the knee during the game and said that he hasn't practiced since the injury.

"It's sore right now," Horner said. "Sometimes out there it would give out on me but its nothing a couple of days isn't going to heal."

Julius Mays scored 15 on 5-of-8 shooting while Scot Wood scored 10 points but was just 4-of-12 from the floor. Javi Gonzalez started but played just 12 minutes as Mays and Degand played almost the entirety of the second half.

The Pack got off to a predictably slow start in its first game before diving head first into the ACC season. After 10 minutes of play, the Crusaders led the Pack 10-6 in an ugly display of offense on both ends of the court.

"I didn't think we came out at the beginning of the ball game and played like we wanted to," Lowe said.

The teams heated up quickly and the Pack jumped into the lead thanks to a 9-0 run. The Pack shot 44 percent in the half but was just 3-of-12 on its 3-point attempts. Holy Cross shot only 32 percent but was 5-of-8 from behind the arc and grabbed nine offensive rebounds on 19 misses to stay close. The Pack took a narrow 33-31 lead into the locker room.

The second half got off to a much better start for the Pack, as the team came out with renewed defensive energy and used a 16-2 run to take control of the game against the Crusaders. Holy Cross refused to roll-over, attacking the basket and getting to the line consistently to keep themselves in the game. Ultimately their own mistakes cost them a chance at the upset, as they threw away possessions with unforced errors to allow the Pack to maintain a double-digit advantage for most of the half.

The Pack now enters the teeth of the ACC schedule, hosting Virginia on Saturday at noon in its second conference game of the year. Degand believes the Pack still has to get better if it wants to succeed in league play.

"We just have to learn how to cut down on the mistakes and not hurt ourselves," Degand said.

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