01/06/08 — Gators can't match Wildcats' intensity

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Gators can't match Wildcats' intensity

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on January 6, 2008 2:21 AM

The Associated Press

RALEIGH -- A hard-fought victory over an obviously overmatched opponent. A season low in points in front of a restless crowd that booed the home team off the court at halftime.

Don't expect North Carolina State's Gavin Grant to apologize for being satisfied with the outcome.

"A win is a win," said Grant, whose 14 points helped the Wolfpack take a 50-43 victory over Presbyterian. "We've had some good moments, we just haven't put it together for 40 minutes yet. But we played the way we needed to to win the game."

Courtney Fells added 10 to help the sluggish Wolfpack.

Grant finished with seven assists and six rebounds for the Wolfpack (10-3), whose sixth victory in a row came despite a performance coach Sidney Lowe probably would like to forget. Leading scorer J.J. Hickson had a season-low four points -- the second time all season he has failed to reach double figures -- and only one rebound.

N.C. State trailed well into the second half before finally taking the lead for good.

"It was really a tough game," Lowe said. "They executed their stuff really well. They had control of the tempo for much of the game, but we were able to pull off the win in the end."

It was quite an effort for the first-year Division I program from tiny Clinton, S.C., one in the midst of a brutal schedule. After nearly beating an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent on the road, Presbyterian won't have to wait long for another chance -- the Blue Hose travel to Georgia Tech on Sunday, one of 18 away games so far.

"I couldn't be prouder of our team," Presbyterian coach Gregg Nibert said. "They had bigger and better athletes, but when you get five guys who play their hearts out on offense, and play their hearts out on defense, it can even out."

Al'Lonzo Coleman scored 10 points for the Blue Hose.

"Like a coach once told me, 'It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog,"' Coleman said.

The score was tied at 29 midway through the second half before N.C. State inched away by six on a layup by Marques Johnson that produced the largest lead of the game. Travis Sligh cut that in half with a 3-pointer with 4 minutes remaining before Presbyterian finally blinked.

Three consecutive possessions down the stretch ended in turnovers, and the Wolfpack converted 7-of-8 at the free throw line to hold on.

"We play the way we're supposed to when we need to win the game," Fells said.

As pathetic as the overall game was, it paled in comparison to the first half. The teams finished the opening 20 minutes with a combined 37 points, as the Blue Hose led 20-17. No player had more than four points, and N.C. State didn't have anyone with more than two rebounds. One foul was called in the first half, and there were no free throw attempts in the first 20 minutes.

"That was crazy," Grant said.

The Wolfpack picked up their first foul more than 9 minutes into the second half when Ben McCauley was called for a reach. That came during what proved to be an odd possession; after going nearly 30 minutes with no fouls, N.C. State was whistled for three in 40 seconds before the Blue Hose turned it over on an offensive foul.