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Monday, March 21, 2005

Backdoor cut

State 65 Connecticut 62

N.Y. Times' Pete Thamel:

"The perpetually embattled N.C. State coach Herb Sendek, for whom saving his job in March is an annual event in Raleigh, will lead the Wolfpack to its first Round of 16 since 1989.....

"The Wolfpack, which uses a modification of the offensive system that Princeton made famous under Pete Carril, struggled most of this season after starting in the top 10. But just like its offense, North Carolina State stayed patient and is taking a backdoor cut into the Round of 16."

Thamel focuses on Julius Hodge's heroics while noting that Connecticut was exposed as "a team with only one guard capable of handling the ball.......For every rainbow jumper Williams hit, he would follow it by spinning into a double team and turning the ball over."

The N&O's Chip Alexander similarly focuses on Hodge's take charge attitude:

"N.C. State's Ilian Evtimov saw the look in Julius Hodge's eyes before Hodge took the shot, sensing what was about to unfold.

"'It was a look that said 'we're not giving up, we're not letting go, we're not losing.'

"And Hodge was not about to let anything go — the ball, the game, his last NCAA Tournament, his senior season."

But in a sidebar, Alexander focuses on Pack's teamwork, including the neutralization of UConn's inside game.

Especially key was Andrew Brackman's three-pointer off an Engin Astur feed, before which Astur put a little shoulder action on the UConn defender. The game announcers said it was a blatant foul; I personally liked the physicality.

Brackman:

"I didn't hesitate. I just put it up, and I knew it was going in when it left my hand. It's hard to describe how it feels to hit a shot like that. If you make it, you're hero. If you miss it, Coach is going to get on you. If you take it, you have to make it."

The N&R's Todd Graff focuses on State's play inside:

"So much for the vaunted UConn front line.....By neutralizing Connecticut's big front line with a mixture of man-to-man and zone defenses and by hitting a barrage of 3-pointers with that pulled the Huskies' huskies away from the basket, the Wolfpack knocked off the second seed and defending national champion..

"N.C. State's starting front line of Evtimov, Hodge and and Andrew Brackman closed with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists."

State's finally found the magic formula: accurate outside shooting combined with strong inside play. True, that's every team's magic formula, but State has the variable few teams have: the backdoor cut. This will be very interesting.

Is Herb Sendek's job officially safe?