The Washington Post
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| ||Engin Atsur provides the Wolfpack some solid outside shooting and a calming presence with his poise and composure. (AP) |
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page G11
How They Could Win It All
North Carolina State is probably better than its record indicates. Five of the Wolfpack's first nine losses were by six or fewer points. Coach Herb Sendek's team also encountered a series of disruptions caused by injury or illness.
But State's offense is a challenge to prepare for, which could be an advantage in a tournament with games on four straight days. The Wolfpack can lull a defense to sleep and burn a defense with backdoor layups -- or hit a quick three-pointer.
"They read screens well," Maryland point guard John Gilchrist said. "If you trail the screen, then they keep going for the back door. If you try to cut through the screen, then they pop back and stay behind the screen for a three-pointer. Their half-court offense is their game. You pick your poison."
The Wolfpack made 25 three-pointers combined in two wins over the Terrapins. "It looked like a layup line," North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said of the Feb. 16 Maryland-N.C. State game, "except that it was behind the three-point line."
State received a boost late in the season when Tony Bethel, a transfer from Georgetown, returned from illness and Cameron Bennerman recovered from an elbow injury. State finished second in the ACC last season and had three starters return, including the 2004 conference player of the year Julius Hodge.
How They Could Lose It All
North Carolina State has been inconsistent this season for a reason: It hasn't been able to hold leads. Already missing the defensive presence of Scooter Sherrill and Marcus Melvin, State also was hampered by the loss of Tony Bethel, considered the team's best defender, for a large portion of the season because of colitis.
Still, Coach Herb Sendek's team demonstrated spurts of strong defense. It held Georgia Tech to 39 percent shooting in a 53-51 victory Feb. 13. And State held John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley without field goals in the second half of an 82-63 win Feb. 16. Several State players have said throughout the season that the key is stopping the opponent's transition offense.
In mid-January, State was 1-3 in the ACC, having lost each game after blowing double-digit leads. At one point of the season, Julius Hodge said he needed to become more "selfish" in taking over games, a word choice he later regretted.
"This is the first time in my basketball career that we're losing the way we have," Hodge said at the time. "But I really do believe that this team will be very special. By the end of the year, we'll be at our best."
He might be right, but that might not be enough.
North Carolina State has at least three players capable of handling the ball: Julius Hodge, Tony Bethel and Engin Atsur. While Bethel was out for most of January because of colitis, Coach Herb Sendek turned to Atsur, a 6-foot-3 sophomore known for his good outside shooting. Sendek needed Atsur to stop dribble penetration and provide Bethel's overall defensive presence -- not an easy assignment. But Sendek repeatedly has praised Atsur's poise and composure, saying he possesses a "quiet confidence." In his media guide bio, Atsur wrote that the word that best describes him is "calm."
Atsur also has demonstrated defensive presence. He helped hold Duke sharp-shooter J.J. Redick to eight points and just one field goal in an 86-74 loss to the Blue Devils on Jan. 13. Atsur also closely guarded Georgia Tech's B.J. Elder in the final seconds of the Wolfpack's 53-51 victory Feb. 13, forcing Elder's final miss. Atsur made 5 of 10 three-point attempts in State's 85-69 victory at Maryland on Jan. 23. He also burned Maryland for at least two backdoor layups in State's 82-63 victory against the Terrapins on Feb. 16. But the point guard's increased responsibilities may have had an adverse effect on Atsur's shooting touch.
Atsur has a distinguished résumé, having captained the Turkish national team at the 2002 European Junior Championships.
One Shining ACC Moment
N.C. State's 103-100 overtime victory over Maryland in the 1974 ACC tournament final is arguably the greatest college basketball game ever played. The stakes were high: The winner went to the NCAA tournament, the loser did not. Six all-Americans and 10 future NBA draft picks competed in the game. Both schools had routed their opponents in the ACC tournament en route to the championship game.
State's David Thompson and Tom Burleson, the tournament's MVP, combined for 67 points. The Wolfpack later won the 1974 national title on the same Greensboro, N.C., court where it captured the ACC title.
Honorable Mention: 1983. North Carolina State's improbable run through the 1983 ACC tournament was just a prelude to the Wolfpack's dramatic NCAA tournament title march. The fourth-seeded Wolfpack, which entered the league tournament with an 8-6 ACC record, needed a few wins just to feel comfortable about earning an at-large bid.
The Wolfpack beat Wake Forest by one point, then overcame a six-point deficit in overtime to upset top seed North Carolina, which The Post's John Feinstein wrote "messed up the anticipated Game of the Century III" between North Carolina and Virginia. The next day, State toppled Virginia, 81-78.
ACC Tournament Section
• After 15 years, the Nation's Capital plays host to country's premier conference tournament.
• John Feinstein: In a glut of tournaments, this one still matters.
• Tournament info and records
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