College hoops: Wolfpack whips Winthrop

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

By Aaron Beard
Associated Press
RALEIGH ó Ben McCauley seemed lost playing alongside heralded freshman J.J. Hickson inside last season. Now, with Hickson gone to the NBA, McCauley is looking more like the guy who helped N.C. State to a surprisingly successful run in Sidney Lowe’s debut season.
The 6-foot-9 senior had 15 points and 11 rebounds, earning his first double-double in almost two years, to help the Wolfpack beat Winthrop 74-48 on Tuesday night.
Brandon Costner added 12 points for the Wolfpack, which led the entire way in a relatively stress-free game. N.C. State (3-0) shot 42 percent but controlled the glass and committed just six turnovers while shutting down the Eagles (1-4) at seemingly every turn.
The Wolfpack used a 16-2 spurt to lead by as many as 21 points in the first half. Winthrop got no closer than 13 points after halftime.
“We’re building,” Lowe said. “We’re trying to establish something with our team, but we still have a long way to go. We’re certainly working hard and working in the right direction, and tonight it definitely paid off because we were able to keep that lead going.”
McCauley had a big part in that, going 6-for-9 from the field in 26 minutes. It was his first double-double since tallying 19 points and 10 rebounds against Marist in the second round of the 2007 NIT tournament, a drought that included his forgettable junior season.
McCauley went from averaging 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds on 58-percent shooting as a sophomore to 6.1 points and 3.7 rebounds on 44-percent shooting last year.
Fair or not, that coincided with the arrival of Hickson, who led the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding before leaving as a first-round NBA draft pick.
Now McCauley seems to have a bit more room to operate.
“At the same time, I definitely feel like it’s much easier to kick the ball out,” said McCauley, who had 17 points in the opener and 12 in the second game. “I think with our shooting on the outside, the inside opens up that much more.”
McCauley got off to a fast start with nine points and six boards in the first half, helping the Wolfpack to a 40-24 lead at the break.
“His game has always been more free because he’s kind of hard to guard,” said Courtney Fells, who had 10 points for the Wolfpack. “If you have a mismatch on him, he can dribble. He can also pass, and he can shoot. He’s kind of a tough cover for anybody.”
It was a good way to celebrate the Wolfpack’s return to the RBC Center.
N.C. State opened on the road for the first time in 11 years with a win at New Orleans, then played its second game at the on-campus Reynolds Coliseum ó the Wolfpack’s home before moving to the RBC Center for the 1999-2000 season ó against High Point.
Cameron Stanley, a graduate transfer from Wake Forest, scored 15 points for the Eagles, who shot 29 percent for the game.
Winthrop has won the Big South Conference and reached the NCAA tournament for four straight years, but the Eagles are off to their worst start since going 1-7 to open the 1997-98 season.
“Against a team as big and strong and physical as they are, we had to keep them off the line,” Winthrop coach Randy Peele said, “but I don’t think we have one post player who can guard one of their post players one-on-one.”
N.C. State scored the game’s first five points and led 22-15 with about seven minutes left in the half before putting the game away with its big run.
Costner got things started with a dunk off an offensive rebound, and he followed that with an assist on a 3-pointer from freshman C.J. Williams. A few plays later, Costner tipped in a high alley-oop pass from Javi Gonzalez and assisted on a 3-pointer from Trevor Ferguson.
Freshman Julius Mays closed the run with a pair of free throws that made it 38-17 with 2:07 left in the half.
Winthrop managed only a driving basket from Stanley during that five-minute stretch. The Eagles missed their other six shots and committed two turnovers in what turned out to be the decisive stretch, sending them to their 32nd loss in 36 games against ACC teams.