TSX: USF a 'Tough Out'

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe was hoping his Wolfpack players would get the opportunity to continue playing after their run in the ACC tournament.

The Pack won its first two games and was within a play or two of making it to the championship game for the second time in the last four years before losing by two points to Georgia Tech in the semifinals.

Lowe got his wish when the 'Pack was awarded an NIT trip to Tampa to play the Big East's USF, which finish its season 20-12. N.C. State is 19-15.

The Bulls look to be a tough out. They were 11-4 at home with wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and they also beat Georgetown on the road. Their NCAA hopes ended when they lost a second-round game to Georgetown in the Big East tournament.

The winner of USF-N.C. State will face the winner of UAB-Coastal Carolina in the second round.

If seventh-seeded Coastal Carolina wins, the sixth-seeded Wolfpack would get a home game by virtue of its higher seed. But UAB holds the second seed and will get the home game if it wins.

--N.C. State will be making its 12th appearance in the NIT. The Wolfpack is 15-12 in the event with two of the wins coming in 2007, its last appearance.

--Senior Dennis Horner played in a reserve role in all three games of N.C State's 2007 NIT appearance, going 6-of-11 from the field and scoring 22 points.

COACH: Sidney Lowe, four years at N.C. State, one year in NIT.

If N.C. State can keep the turnovers down, it always has a shot at winning. The challenge on the defensive end will be to keep USF G Dominique Jones (21.3 points per game) under control, but there are other tests as well. Three other Bulls average in double figures.

"This is a great reward for our team for their play at the end of the season. We have been playing some of our best basketball of the season." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, in a statement released by the university after the Wolfpack was awarded a bid to the NIT.

Tracy Smith is the team's leading scorer (16.9) and rebounder (7.5), but senior forward Dennis Horner (11.2) is the only other player averaging in double figures for the Wolfpack.

Point guard Javier Gonzalez has his good moments shooting (36.9 percent on 3-pointers) but can be a turnover machine. Freshman guard Scott Wood also can burn an opponent from the perimeter, shooting 37.8 percent from behind the arc. Freshman forward Richard Howell and sophomore guard C.J. Williams have been effective off the bench.

--Freshman G Scott Wood likes playing against Florida State. In January, he set his career-high with a 31-point explosion in the Wolfpack's win in Tallahassee. In the ACC tournament quarterfinals, he went off again, scoring 18 points on six 3-pointers in another Wolfpack victory over Florida State.

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