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No. 19 N.C. State rolls as six score in double figures

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina State's players knew it
would take a team effort to replace first-round NBA draft pick
Julius Hodge.

So far this season, they're doing just that.

Ilian Evtimov scored 19 points Wednesday night to lead the Wolfpack (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP) past North Carolina-Asheville 86-56, giving N.C. State
an easy tuneup before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play this
weekend against Miami.

Cameron Bennerman and Gavin Grant each added 14 points in a
balanced effort by the Wolfpack (7-1), who had six players score in
double figures and had no trouble staying unbeaten in the series.

It was a solid all-around performance that fit right in line
with the identity of this year's group. The Wolfpack knocked down
the outside shots that are part of their "Princeton-style"
offense -- a label that appears to be wearing thin with the team --
but got out in transition and used its athleticism to score plenty
of easy baskets against the Bulldogs (1-5).

And while N.C. State's offense has had six players lead the team
in scoring this season, its defense also is causing plenty of
headaches for opponents.

That's exactly the kind of play needed to offset the loss of
Hodge, who averaged 17 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists last
season.

"I think the main question everyone's been asking was, 'Who's
going to replace Julius Hodge?" Bennerman said. "This just goes
to show you that it can't be one person. It has to be a team thing.

"There are plays to be made, shots to be taken, rebounds to be
gotten. You have to go out and play and know someone has to do
it."

The Wolfpack did all that Wednesday, jumping to a double-digit
lead in the first 10 minutes. N.C. State shot 56 percent, hit 13
3-pointers and finished with 26 assists on 32 baskets.

"We got the ball inside, kicked out, rotated and guys got open
shots," Grant said. "I think our offense was really moving
today."

Indeed. North Carolina State even started pushing the ball
upcourt more after the break, getting several transition scores to
fuel a 23-4 run that turned a 15-point halftime lead to 30 midway
through the period. The Wolfpack ended up with a 20-3 edge in
fast-break points, quite a change from their offensive struggles in
the 45-42 loss to Iowa on Nov. 30.

When asked about his team's transition attack, coach Herb Sendek
responded with a sarcastic smile.

"It's just a component of our Princeton offense," he said.

Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach -- who played and coached at N.C.
State -- sounded convinced about the Wolfpack's ability to get up
and down the court.

"State's a very sound transition team," he said. "Their
halfcourt offense will lull you to sleep, but it can really add up
on you quickly and catch you off guard."

The game marked a homecoming for Biedenbach, who was a two-time
all-ACC performer here in the 1960s. He spent nine years as Norm
Sloan's assistant from 1969-78 -- a run that included the Wolfpack's
1974 NCAA championship -- and three seasons as an assistant to Les
Robinson from 1993-96 before taking over the Bulldogs.

But the Wolfpack treated Biedenbach no differently than each of
his four predecessors at UNC-Asheville, improving to 16-0 against
the in-state school from the Big South Conference.

The Wolfpack got a pair of 3-pointers from Tony Bethel to open
the game, the first of eight 3s en route to a 41-26 halftime lead.

N.C. State's defense also had its way with the Bulldogs. The
Wolfpack had held opponents to 34-percent shooting, and did little
to hurt that average by holding UNC-Asheville to 37 percent.

N.C. State got out more in transition off missed shots early in
the second half, with Atsur finding Bethel for a fast-break layup
and Cedric Simmons for a dunk to start a run of five straight
possessions with a basket.

Atsur followed that with a 3-pointer, and found Evtimov for a
three-point play that made it 58-32 with 14:44 left. Grant closed
the run with a transition layup off a feed from reserve Ben
McCauley, making it 66-36 with 11:48 left.

Joe Barber scored 15 points for the Bulldogs.