ACC hoops: N.C. State 87, ECU 76
Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 18, 2008
By Bret Strelow
RALEIGH ó Brandon Costner helped N.C. State exact revenge on East Carolina, and he regained his shooting touch in the process.
Costner scored 24 points and registered 17 rebounds in an 87-76 home victory against the Pirates, who upset the Wolfpack in Greenville last season.
ECU now has an all-time record of 1-58 against ACC foes.
“There’s no reason why East Carolina should come in here and beat us,” Costner said. “A lot of people were talking like they were gonna beat us and they should beat us. That wasn’t the case. We really needed to come out and prove a point that last year was an aberration.
“Last year hurt. I felt like it was a big turning point of the season. I felt like that loss really got our confidence down, got us down as a team, and it was all downhill from there.”
Fellow forward Ben McCauley had 20 points for the Wolfpack, which played without injured starter Courtney Fells, and reserve forward Tracy Smith added 11 points. Three ECU players, including 6-foot-10 Chad Wynn and 6-8 Darrius Morrow, fouled out with more than six minutes remaining.
Costner grabbed 15 of N.C. State’s 29 defensive rebounds and enjoyed his best offensive showing since a 28-point outing against North Carolina in the championship game of the 2007 ACC Tournament.
He went 5-for-5 from the field, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, and scored 13 points in the first 51/2 minutes against East Carolina.
“That’s Brandon,” McCauley said. “He’s been waiting to blossom out of his shell, and he did that tonight. You saw the Brandon Costner of old, and that’s the way he’s going to continue to play. It’s a great thing.”
N.C. State point guard Javier Gonzalez banked in a halfcourt shot to give the Wolfpack (6-1) a 45-42 halftime lead, and it opened the second half with a 15-2 run. Costner had all six of N.C. State’s defensive boards during that stretch.
The Pirates (8-2) trailed 62-48 before point guard Brock Young, the nation’s assists leader, scored his team’s next 15 points with a flurry of drives.
“We give him a lot of freedom,” ECU coach Mack McCarthy said, “and I thought he exercised that freedom, for the most part, with very good judgment.”
A 3-pointer from Sam Hinnant cut the Wolfpack’s edge to five with 8:15 remaining, and ECU trailed by at least four the rest of the way.
Gonzalez drilled an open 3-pointer to push N.C. State ahead by eight with six minutes left, and the Pirates were behind 78-74 when Young made a steal with 2:54 left. He missed a layup five seconds later.
Young finished with a career-high 25 points, and all six of his assists came in the first half. Hinnant had 18 points, but the Pirates were an icy 2-for-15 on 3-point attempts in the second half and 8-for-26 overall.
N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe praised the defense of Simon Harris and Trevor Ferguson, who started for the second consecutive game.
“We tried to limit their options on which way they could cut,” Lowe said.
“The times we did it correctly in the first half, it worked out for us. The times we didn’t, they scored. We challenged the guys at the half, and I challenged them not to be the one. Don’t you be the first one that allows your guy to go where he’s not supposed to go.”