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    Pack Ends 2-Game Skid With 74-49 Win Over S.C. State
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH, N.C. Freshman J.J. Hickson and senior Gavin Grant took turns carrying the scoring load as NC State ended its two-game road losing streak with a resounding 74-49 victory over South Carolina State Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center.

     

    Playing at home for the first time since Nov. 18, the re-energized Wolfpack (5-3) used more players and had more fire than in previous outings.

     

    “It was good to be back here,” said junior Ben McCauley, who had seven points and eight rebounds off the bench. “I knew once we got in front of our fans and got home, we were going to be OK. We have had a rough stretch, obviously. But to get back home and get back after it and play NC State basketball the way we know how to play, I think we did really well.”

     

    Hickson, the 6-9 freshman from Marietta, Ga., did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 16 points, thanks primarily to an 8-for-11 shooting performance from the free-throw line. He scored only two points in the second half.

     

    Grant, who finished with a game-high 23 points, took over the main scoring burden in the second half, as second-year head coach Sidney Lowe continued to tinker with his lineup throughout the contest.

     

    The Wolfpack trailed only once in the game, at 4-2 just 90 seconds after the tip-off, and led by as many as 29 points in the second half. Second-year head coach Sidney Lowe was disappointed that his team seemed to relax with about nine minutes to play, allowing S.C. State to outscore the Wolfpack 14-3 during one stretch.

     

    “We played pretty well, even though we had a letdown there with about eight minutes to play in the game,” said Grant. “We were up 29 and then it was 17. Coach said in the lockerroom that a couple of guys were smiling on the court. It was probably me, because I am always smiling.

     

    “He said we can’t have that because against a better team, things can get away from us.”

     

    But that was one of the few downsides in a game in which Lowe went deeper onto his bench from the outset, even though sophomore guard Trevor Ferguson was not in uniform for the game because of an illness. The Wolfpack used 10 players before halftime, including the first significant minutes of the season by junior Simon Harris.

     

    Harris, the son of NC State assistant Larry Harris, had played only three minutes in the team’s first seven games. He played five in the first half Saturday and finished with 11 in the game.

     

    Lowe went to the bench early, sending in McCauley and sophomore Dennis Horner for starters Hickson and Courtney Fells less than two minutes into the contest. His frequent substitutions seemed to energize the team.

     

    “The guys who came in off the bench gave us a big lift,” Lowe said. “They came in and picked it up for us.”

     

    Overall, Lowe was pleased with his team’s effort on defense and on the boards, out-rebounding S.C. State 46-35. It was just the kind of game his team needed after losing back-to-back games against Michigan State and East Carolina.

     

    “It was important for us to come in here today and not just win, but to play the way we wanted to play, dive for loose balls, those kinds of things,” Lowe said. “It was not just the win itself, but we won doing the things we needed to do.

     

    The Wolfpack has another six-day break to finish first-semester exams, before hosting in-state rival Davidson next Friday at 7 p.m. at the RBC Center. State plays again two days later against Cincinnati at 7:30 p.m.

     

    Lowe will have one more player to use off the bench the rest of the season, as Tennessee-transfer Marques Johnson becomes eligible to compete after sitting out under NCAA transfer rules.

     

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


     

     

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