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    TIM PEELER: Pack Faces Big Test Against Michigan
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH Until now, new NC State coach Sidney Lowe and his team have sailed through the first four games of the young basketball season without a hitch.

     

    Oh, there have been adjustments here and there and more than a few, um, inspirational speeches during timeouts, but so far Lowe’s thin lineup has adjusted well to the new coach’s offensive and defensive styles of play.

     

    Junior Gavin Grant (18.8 points per game) leads the team in scoring, with senior Engin Atsur (17.3) and redshirt freshman Brandon Costner (14.8) close behind. The other two regular starters, sophomores Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells, are also averaging double-digit scoring.

     

    There have been no major bumps or bruises in wins over Wofford, Delaware State, Valparaiso or Gardner-Webb, other than the knee injury to freshman center Bartosz Lewandoski that will likely sideline him for weeks to come.

     

    Tonight, however, Lowe’s team will get its biggest challenge of the season, when Michigan visits the RBC Center in the eighth-annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Both teams enter the contest undefeated, the Wolfpack at 4-0 and the Wolverines at 7-0. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN2.

     

    This will be State’s fifth consecutive contest at home, while the Wolverines are playing their first road game after seven consecutive games at home.

     

    In the first seven ACC/Big 10 Challenges, the Wolfpack owns a 4-3 mark, winning all three of its home contests in the event and posting a 1-3 record on the road.

     

    “It is a big test for us,” Atsur said following the Wolfpack’s 88-76 win over Gardner-Webb Friday night. “It is our toughest game of the season so far.”

     

    But, Lowe counters, every game is a test for a team that starts three second-year players and has a short bench. This one will just have a bigger audience, both in the RBC Center and on television.

     

    “All of our games have been tough,” Lowe said. “But we are competing against ourselves. We know they are a good ball club. But we have to concentrate on us and execute our offense and play defense the way we want to play. We want to play smart and play hard.

     

    “So it really shouldn’t matter who you are playing, you should just go out and play hard every night. That’s what good ball clubs do. We want to get to the point where we play the same way every game, no matter who we are playing.”

     

    Lowe said the fact that this will be his program’s debut on national television the first opportunity for college basketball fans at home and abroad who are interested in his program makes no difference to him or his team.

     

    “We’ll play the game whether it is on national television or not,” Lowe said. “You go out and you play the game. You don’t play because it is on television. You play it because you love to play the game. Hopefully, that is what we will do.”

     

    A win tonight would tie Lowe for the best start to a coaching career in school history. Both Harry Hartsell (1916-17) and Herb Sendek (1996-97) opened with five wins before suffering their first losses as the NC State head coach.

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

     

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