Feb. 10, 2004
By DAVID DROSCHAK
AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. – A shy player from Turkey several months ago, Engin Atsur is starting to loosen up and joke with his North Carolina State teammates.
The freshman was smiling after his performance Tuesday night, scoring a season-high 20 points while leading No. 21 N.C. State’s shooting barrage in a 75-59 victory over Florida State.
“We played good transition offense and everybody was looking for everybody,” Atsur said. “My teammates found me for open 3s so I made the shots.”
The 6-foot-3 Atsur had four 3-pointers as the Wolfpack, ranked for the first time since late November, finished 14-for-30 beyond the arc.
“He’s more used to the guys now,” fellow guard Shooter Sherrill said of Atsur. “He’s starting to fit in and he’s got a lot of confidence. He’s the difference in our team right now. He’s playing much older than a freshman.”
N.C. State (15-5) is off to an 8-2 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in 15 seasons, matching its third-best start in the league since 1970.
The win also kept the Wolfpack, who played with their highest ranking since February 2000, within two games of top-ranked and ACC-leading Duke. The Blue Devils come to Raleigh on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles (16-8, 4-6), who have upset three Top 25 teams at home in the last three weeks, lost their 21st straight ACC road game and 11th in a row to the Wolfpack.
“You get beat by teams who are well coached with a lot of players,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It’s not like a fog comes over the room when we show up and play on the road.
“We’ve got to come in and understand that we’ve got to elevate our focus, we’ve got to elevate our intensity, do all the little things a little better.”
Atsur’s previous high was 16 points at Maryland three games ago. Julius Hodge added 16 points, while Marcus Melvin had 11 and Sherrill 10 as N.C. State won its fourth straight.
N.C. State, the nation’s top free throw shooting team, also was 21-for-26 from the line – including making 17 in a row at one point.
Florida State cut a large first-half deficit to 13 points at halftime. But N.C. State got a shot in the lane and 3-pointer from Melvin, and a layup by Sherrill to go up by 20 2 minutes into the second half.
While it seemed as if the Wolfpack couldn’t miss from outside, Florida State star Tim Pickett had a rough night. The ACC’s fourth-leading scorer managed just five points, going 2-for-8 from the field as Sherrill shut down the senior.
Pickett’s worst moment came in the second half when Melvin blocked his attempt at a breakaway layup after a steal.
“I never could get into a rhythm,” Pickett said. “They didn’t give me much space.”
Florida State got down 23 before trimming the deficit to 11 with 5:31 left.
N.C. State’s first nine baskets were all 3-pointers, including three in the opening 6? minutes from Atsur.
“When you’re in a groove like that why not keep shooting them?” Hodge said.
“It was lights out,” Seminoles guard Todd Galloway said. “They were knocking them down from everywhere. We didn’t get up in their face on a lot of them, but the ones we did they made anyway.”
The Seminoles trailed by eight before the Wolfpack used an 11-0 run to build a 19-point lead late in the first half. The run started and ended with 3-pointers by Sherrill and Levi Watkins.
“When you’re already a good shooting team you can have these kind of nights,” Hamilton said. “The bucket seems as big as the ocean.”
The Wolfpack finished the half 10-for-19 from beyond the arc, getting long-range shots from seven players.
“Sitting on the bench we were kind in awe by all the 3s,” Melvin added. “But we just wanted to stay with them and use it as much as they allowed us.”