Originally created 12/16/04

N.C. State tops Louisiana-Lafayette



RALEIGH, N.C. - Andrew Brackman scored a career-high 20 points and made several key plays during a decisive second-half run Wednesday night to lift No. 12 North Carolina State past Louisiana-Lafayette 78-72.

Julius Hodge added 16 points for the Wolfpack (8-0), who overcame a horrendous first half and held on to stay unbeaten.

Tiras Wade scored a career-high 37 points - an RBC Center record - and hit five 3-pointers to lead the Ragin' Cajuns (3-5), who hung around until the final seconds before falling short.

The Wolfpack are off to their best start since going 9-0 in 1981-82, but they had to grind out a tough win against a determined opponent. N.C. State shot 15-for-22 in the second half and went 29-for-44 from the free throw line for the game, but was outrebounded 42-25.

Fortunately N.C. State had Brackman, a lanky 6-foot-10 freshman who provided the Wolfpack with a desperately needed jolt in the final 20 minutes. After taking just one shot in the first half, Brackman finished 6-for-6 from the field with four rebounds in a rematch of a first-round NCAA tournament game from last season. The Wolfpack won that game 61-52.

Brackman's effort was enough to offset Wade's big day. Wade had 16 points in the first half and finished 13-for-26 from the field. His 37 points broke the previous building record of 32 set by Arizona State's Eddie House in 2000.

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Wolfpack in the first half. After a quick start, N.C. State shot 6-for-20, including 1-for-11 from 3-point range, and committed 10 turnovers to trail 28-23 at halftime.

But Brackman drained a long 3 with the shot clock winding down for the Wolfpack's first score of the second half, a basket that ultimately foreshadowed his strong second-half performance.

With his team trailing 48-47 midway through the second half, Brackman made probably his biggest play, reaching high above the rim for a missed 3-pointer from Ilian Evtimov and slamming it home with 10:23 left.

That basket seemed to energize a once-lethargic home crowd and started the Wolfpack on a 7-0 spurt that put them ahead to stay.

From there, Brackman made his mark on both ends of the floor. He assisted on Levi Watkins' 3 from the right wing for a 52-48 lead on the next possession. He swatted shots on two straight possessions, further energizing a once-lethargic crowd.

Then he got free inside for two baskets, scoring on a feed from Evtimov and spinning by Chris Cameron on the right block for a 58-52 lead with 6:40 to play.

Louisiana-Lafayette - which was coming off a 96-51 loss at No. 2 Kansas - hung around the rest of the way behind Wade's career effort. Wade hit two free throws then made a contested, double-pump 3 to pull to 74-72 with 6.9 seconds to go. But Cameron Bennerman drained two free throws to put the game away.