College Basketball: N.C. State 71, UNC-Wilmington 52

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2006

Associated Press

RALEIGH — Appropriately enough, the best game of Brandon Costner’s young career ended with him standing alone near midcourt, dribbling out the final seconds.

The spotlight was all his.

“Unbelievable, such a great effort,” North Carolina State coach Sidney Lowe said.

Costner set new highs with 27 points and 19 rebounds, Ben McCauley added 19 points and N.C. State beat UNC Wilmington 72-51 Saturday.

Gavin Grant finished with 12 points despite playing a season-low 29 minutes for the Wolfpack (9-4), who shot 52 percent from the field. It was only the second time this season an opponent made at least half its shots against the Seahawks (3-7).

“Opportunities presented themselves,” Costner said. ‘I just tried to take advantage of what the defense gives me.”

Playing for the first time in two weeks, UNC Wilmington showed plenty of rust on the offensive end. Many possessions ended with a quick shot from the perimeter, and very few of them fell on the way to the Seahawks’ worst shooting effort of the season at 30 percent.

This came a game after they made 62 percent in a loss at Toledo.

“We did a very poor job of sharing the basketball,” first-year Seahawks coach Benny Moss said. “We have to go back to playing team basketball, sharing the ball, moving it around. We did not do that.”

Daniel Fountain scored 17 points for UNC Wilmington and Vladimir Kuljanin had 13.

Costner nearly outscored the Seahawks himself through the first 23 minutes, capping an impressive personal run with an emphatic dunk to give the Wolfpack a 42-27 lead early in the second half. Those two points tied his previous high of 25 set 10 days earlier against Alabama, and a personal best appeared guaranteed.

He had to wait more than 14 minutes to get there, however, tallying his final points on two free throws at the 2:42 mark with the outcome all but decided. And thanks to a lack of dead balls down the stretch, Costner never got a chance to leave the court, playing all 40 minutes for the second time this season.

“It really didn’t seem that long,” Costner said of his scoring drought. “We’re trying to make plays to win the game, so the points don’t matter.”

“McCauley’s fast start included an amazing dunk off a nifty lob from Grant, where the 6-foot-9 McCauley leaped high to snare the pass with his left hand. He threw it through the hoop in one motion, sending the crowd into a frenzy and forcing Moss to call a timeout.

“I just went up and hoped I could grab it, and I did,” McCauley said. “The good thing was I was able to finish.”

Minutes later, N.C. State’s Courtney Fells added his own highlight-reel jam following a give-and-go with McCauley, and the Wolfpack was taking control.

“We played a very good ballgame from both ends,” Lowe said. “We contested about every shot and didn’t allow them many second opportunities.”