Gavin Grant finished with 12 points despite playing a season-low 29 minutes for the Wolfpack (9-4), who shot 52 percent from the field. It was only the second time this season an opponent made at least half its shots against the Seahawks (3-7).
Playing for the first time in two weeks, UNC Wilmington showed plenty of rust on the offensive end. Many possessions ended with a quick shot from the perimeter, and very few of them fell on the way to the Seahawks' worst shooting effort of the season at 30 percent.
This came a game after they made 62 percent in a loss at Toledo.
Costner nearly outscored the Seahawks himself through the first 23 minutes, capping an impressive personal run with an emphatic dunk to give the Wolfpack a 42-27 lead early in the second half. Those two points tied his previous high of 25 set 10 days earlier against Alabama, and a personal best appeared guaranteed.
He had to wait more than 14 minutes to get there, however, tallying his final points on two free throws at the 2:42 mark with the outcome all but decided. And thanks to a lack of dead balls down the stretch, Costner never got a chance to leave the court, playing all 40 minutes for the second time this season.
UNC Wilmington, coming off its second NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, hardly is the same team that nearly upset George Washington in the first round last spring. Gone are coach Brad Brownell and point guard John Goldsberry, and shooting guard T.J. Carter is out for the year with a groin injury.
Still, the Seahawks led for the first 7 minutes until Costner and McCauley got going. They combined for N.C. State's first 23 points until Grant made a jumper as he was fouled with about 5½ minutes left in the first half. By that time, the Wolfpack had pulled ahead by 10 points, and UNC Wilmington could get within only eight points after that.
McCauley's fast start included an amazing dunk off a nifty lob from Grant, where the 6-foot-9 McCauley leaped high to snare the pass with his left hand. He threw it through the hoop in one motion, sending the crowd into a frenzy and forcing first-year Seahawks coach Benny Moss to call a timeout.
Minutes later, N.C. State's Courtney Fells added his own highlight-reel jam following a give-and-go with McCauley, and the Wolfpack was taking control.