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Bethel opens with four 3-pointers for NC State

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Cameron Bennerman made a late 3-pointer,
then threw his arms up in jubilation. Sure, North Carolina State
was way ahead and hardly needed the points, but the shot put him in
double figures.

He didn't want to feel left out.

Tony Bethel made his first five shots -- including four
3-pointers -- and scored 22 points to lead the 19th-ranked Wolfpack
past East Carolina 100-66 Friday night in the championship game of
the BCA Invitational.

That 3 made Bennerman the eighth Wolfpack player to score at 10
points in the tournament, joining Bethel, Julius Hodge, Andrew
Brackman, Levin Watkins, Engin Atsur, Jordan Collins and Ilian
Evtimov.

"We definitely came out in these games trying to get everybody
involved," Hodge said. "When so many guys score in double figures
on this team, it shows we're unselfish."

Hodge and Brackman added 12 points apiece in this one, and
Watkins had 11. Cedric Simmons worked inside for a basket with 41
seconds left to help N.C. State reach 100 points.

"It's important to have good balance," coach Herb Sendek said.
"Guys have been playing unselfishly and really looking for each
other."

The Wolfpack (3-0) cruised through the three games, taking big
leads early in all of them. They outscored their opponents by an
average of 31 points and shot 57 percent, and their closest margin
of victory was 26 points in the second round against Elon.

Moussa Badiane led the Pirates (2-1) with 15 points and Mike
Cook scored 13.

"I just told our kids in the locker room, this has been a great
three days for our basketball team," East Carolina coach Bill
Herrion said. "If you had told me we would have been 2-1 coming
out of this tournament, I would have been pleased. We got beat by a
really, really, really good basketball team."

Bethel, a transfer from Georgetown, had only eight points in
each of the first two games, deferring along with everyone else to
Hodge. But Bethel started this one off with a 3 just 37 seconds in,
and he kept shooting.

"I just wanted to come out and be more aggressive," Bethel
said. "I made that first shot and just got into a rhythm, and they
kept going in."

He had 15 points in the first half while the Wolfpack shot 59
percent, but it was defense that gave them another terrific start.

East Carolina missed its first nine shots and trailed 13-0
barely 3½ minutes into the game. Everybody seemed to be affected --
six players combined for those bricks -- before Cook got inside for
a layup. Finally, the Pirates were on the board.

The good times didn't last. N.C. State continued to increase its
lead with stifling defense and precision shooting, and the margin
went to 37-10 on two free throws from Bethel.

"We have good group leadership right now," Sendek said. "Our
guys are in the right mindset, and I hope we continue along those
lines. We were ready to play and that is always a step in the right
direction."

Nearing the end of the half, the Pirates slowly crept to 48-25
when Jonathan Hart made 1-of-2 from the line.

Then Bethel came through again. He banked in a 3-pointer --
clearly unintentionally -- and the Wolfpack were up 51-25 at the
half.

"I thought our young kids played well, I am very proud of
them," Herrion said. "What concerns me is we are getting behind
early in games. If you start slow, then you pay the price, and we
paid the price tonight."

Hodge, who had 21 points in each of the first two games, was
solid again and was chosen as tournament MVP. He left to a rousing
ovation with about four minutes left and demonstratively slapped
hands with each of his teammates on the bench.