Indy intern Sarah Ewald attended last night’s basketball game between N.C. State and Holy Cross and sent us this report.
RBC CENTER/ RALEIGH—The number 23 carries all sorts of mystical associations: An arts writer such as myself might think of Jim Carrey's not-such-a-thriller of 2007 that was dedicated to that number. Basketball mavens of course associate it with His Airness over in Chapel Hill. Here in Raleigh, Wolfpack forward Tracy Smith is the proud owner of this prime number, and he was, yes, prime time all the way, leading his squad to an 87-70 victory over Holy Cross.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore led the attack with 19 points, including a cool 9-of-10 performance on the foul line, to help the 'Pack recover from its stunning loss to Florida Sunday, courtesy of an ESPN-highlight-reel 65-foot buzzer beater.
As it happens, tonight was my first visit courtside of any major college basketball game, so I focused on the view from my seat in the press box. While Smith was a game-long focal point, he and forward Dennis Horner tag-teamed on a few plays. Horner particularly favored a certain spot on the wing. He dropped two through the net from this location on the pine floor.
Holy Cross have the perhaps-questionable nickname of the Crusaders (but hey, the Wolfpack used to be the Red Terror!), and they brought some muscle down from their home base in Worcester, Mass. Like Mike Cavataio, for instance. The crowd, quoted later at 10,205, quickly noticed the aggressiveness of the 6-foot-4 sophomore guard—and that he was unafraid to use his elbows. He earned the ire of the home crowd as one particularly vociferous 'Pack fan screamed, "No. 5, you have a big head"—one of the sillier of the night's heckles.
Holy Cross had a few ball gaffes, beginning when guard R.J. Evans bumbled the ball off the court into the N.C. State dance team early in the first half. The Crusaders would finish the game with 17 turnovers, to N.C. State's eight.
After the game, Holy Cross head coach Sean Kearney, whose team departs Raleigh with a 3-12 record, acknowledged the strength of N.C. State's performance. "It was certainly a terrific outing by the home team tonight.
"I think we had chances ... but their big guys were a little too quick for us. We missed some early opportunities and that was very difficult for us to recover from."
Kearney acknowledged his emphasis on making the game difficult for Smith—who would finish with five rebounds and three blocks on his stat line—and praised the performance of Horner, who finished the game with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes on the floor.
For his part, Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe expressed satisfaction at the off-the-bench performances of guards Julius Mays and Farnold Degand, who combined for 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range, 27 points and 11 assists (nine by Degand). Javi Gonzalez started the game at point, but sat early and ended up with five points, no assists and no turnovers in just 12 minutes.
"I told my guys if you're playing well, you're going to stay in the game. They're starting to realize it," Lowe said.
On the "needs improvement" side of the ledger, Lowe cited the 'Pack's slow reactions in the first half, rotating on defense and corralling loose balls. But he did note that his men hit 91 percent of their free throws.
And no one heaved the ball for a buzzer beater tonight.