Hodge Does it all in Wolfpack's 94-60 Triumph Over Liberty
Dec. 11, 2004
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C. - On a day when NC State celebrated its past by returning to Reynolds Coliseum, Julius Hodge once again showed why the Wolfpack's immediate future may also hold significant promise. In the 12th ranked Pack's 94-60 victory over Liberty, Hodge did everything but prepare popcorn and sell souvenirs. Scoring 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and nine assists, the 6-7 senior nearly produced the second triple-double of his career as NC State improved to 7-0 for only the second time during the nine-year tenure of head coach Herb Sendek.
"I may not be the strongest guy, the best passer, probably not the best ball handler or the best post-up guy, but I do a lot of things very well," said the reigning ACC Player of the Year. "One of my best attributes is posting up, and today I did a good job of getting some easy baskets in the low post and getting some other guys easy baskets. I know my game and I play to my strengths. I may not be the best shooter... but I'm the best looking."
With that, Hodge broke out into the big smile that has become his trademark. Certainly, he left the noisy crowd of 7,133 with yet more Reynolds Coliseum memories with his all around play.
Hodge came close to notching his 10th assist on a feed to Cameron Bennerman with just over six minutes left, but Bennerman's 3-point attempt from the left corner spun in and out. With NC State in front by 25 points about a minute later, he was lifted from the game and never returned.
"It's alright; we got the win," Hodge said. "That's what I wanted. I wanted to see the young guys play well and I wanted us to do a better job on the backboard. As a unit, we did that today."
Rebounding, which had not particularly been an NC State strength through the first six games, proved to be a huge factor in the first half. In building a 52-31 lead in the opening frame, the Wolfpack used its superior size inside to score 21 second chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.
By the end of the game, NC State held a 44-38 edge on the glass.
"I'm going to be a little bit greedy and say we still need to be a much better rebounding team," Sendek said. "I do not think we are anywhere close to where we need to be with respect to rebounding. The offensive rebounding was a positive, but still, we gave up too many in the second half."
But by the time NC State took the floor for the second half, the outcome was really no longer in doubt after the Wolfpack closed the first half by outscoring Liberty 20-7 over the last five minutes. The Pack got a big lift from freshman forward Andrew Brackman, who scored nine points on a 4-of-5 shooting touch in the first 20 minutes. The 6-10 rookie finished with 13 points and six rebounds, hitting 6-of-7 shots from the floor.
"He's really a good player," said Sendek. "He came in and was 4-for-5 in the first half. He really helped us open up the lead."
Brackman also produced some highlight reel material during a fast-break basket in the second half. Running the left side of the floor, the Cincinnati native took a perfect lob pass from guard Tony Bethel and dropped the ball gently into the basket. It was a play that sent the noise level inside Reynolds through the roof.
Fellow freshman Cedric Simmons also caused the building to vibrate in the first half when he took a touch pass from Hodge in transition and threw down an emphatic one-hand jam. First-year swingman Gavin Grant then got in on the act by getting an uncontested dunk right before halftime following a Hodge steal and assist.
It was that kind of day as the Wolfpack took its fans on a trip down memory lane by returning to the historic venue in which so much history was made between 1949 and 1999.
"We had a great crowd today," Sendek said. "I got chill bumps when we came up on the court and saw so many people clad in red. The noise level was terrific today."
Along with Hodge and Brackman, Levi Watkins, Jordan Collins and Cameron Bennerman also scored in double figures with 10 points apiece. For the game, the Wolfpack shot 46.7 percent from the field (35-of-27) and had only five turnovers.
Led by leading scorer Larry Blair's 22 points, the Flames (1-5) shot an even 40 percent from the floor (24-of-60).
But the story on Saturday was Hodge. Playing in a building that was made famous by the likes of Everett Case, David Thompson and Rodney Monroe, he showed why he too will rank as one of the Pack's all-time greats by the time his career is over.
"He was brilliant today," said Sendek. "He just took over the game; he was dominant. All the players on our team also benefited."
So did those who had a chance to see it.