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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT AT ORLANDO, FLA.

N.C. State Pulls Out All the Stops

March 20, 2004|From Associated Press

When its offense struggles, North Carolina State turns to defense for a lift.

The Wolfpack, seeded third in the Phoenix Regional, did it again Friday and overcame a slow start to beat Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana Lafayette, 61-52, in a first-round NCAA tournament game at Orlando, Fla.

North Carolina State plays Vanderbilt in a second-round Phoenix Regional game on Sunday.

"There's going to be grind-out games when you just have to do whatever it takes to win," North Carolina State's Julius Hodge said.

Marcus Melvin scored 20 points and the Wolfpack (21-9) survived a subpar performance by Hodge, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year who turned the ball over six times and was held to 14 points on five-for-13 shooting.

"I wasn't scoring so I had to do other things," said Hodge, who had 10 rebounds. "I hit the boards and did whatever it took. I didn't necessarily have to score 30 for us to win."

Louisiana Lafayette (20-9) drew within seven points with just under three minutes to play, but North Carolina State secured the victory by going six for six from the free-throw line.

Landry led Louisiana Lafayette with 16 points, but the Ragin' Cajuns shot only 32.7% from the field, including five for 22 on three-point attempts, and were held to their second-lowest point total.

The key was a field-goal drought of nearly 12 minutes that spanned the last 9:15 of the first half and the first 2:40 of the second.

"We were up three or four and took some quick threes, looking for the home run. ... We knew every possession is critical and you have to play 40 minutes against a team like that," Louisiana Lafayette Coach Jessie Evans said. "It just didn't work out"

Vanderbilt 71, Western Michigan 58 -- Mario Moore's outside shooting enabled the Commodores to turn a struggle into a rout.

Moore scored a career-best 26 points and had six three-point baskets to lead Vanderbilt in the first-round game.

"We just needed something to create some separation," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said.

It was the first NCAA tournament victory for Vanderbilt since reaching the round of 16 in 1993.

Vanderbilt (22-9) led by only two after 35 minutes and the game seemed destined to go down to the final seconds.

That's when Moore made his fourth three-point basket of the half, putting the Commodores up, 58-53. After a miss by the Broncos, Matt Freije made another three-point basket to stretch the lead. Freije finished with 13 points.

Western Michigan (26-5) missed seven of its next eight shots, and the Commodores took advantage. Moore made two jump shots and Vanderbilt took control with a 16-2 outburst. Moore made all seven of his shots after halftime.

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