March 12, 2004
By JAY COHEN
Associated Press Writer
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Marcus Melvin stepped up when North Carolina State needed him the most Friday night.
Melvin made two big 3-pointers in the second half and Julius Hodge scored 19 points to lead the Wolfpack past Florida State 78-71 in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.
Ilian Evtimov and Cameron Bennerman each scored 17 points for No. 17 N.C. State (20-8), which has won 12 in a row against the Seminoles, its longest winning streak ever over an ACC rival.
N.C. State will face the winner of the Maryland-Wake Forest game in Saturday’s semifinals.
Melvin helped N.C. State come back after falling behind by 11 with 13:08 left. His first big 3 capped an 8-2 run and gave the Wolfpack a 63-62 lead with 4:03 left.
He then hit another 3 for a 70-67 lead with 1:32 remaining.
“I felt it,” said Melvin, who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. “Whenever I caught the basketball, I knew I was going to shoot it because I was in a pressure situation and that’s the situations that I would like to be in.”
Tim Pickett scored 23 points for the Seminoles (18-13), who have lost their last five games and weakened their NCAA tournament hopes. They outrebounded the Wolfpack 32-29, but committed 16 turnovers.
“They made big plays when the game was on the line,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “You have to give them credit. It’s sometimes not as much what we did wrong as what they did right.
“They’ve got guys who are very capable of knocking down those shots.”
Pickett, who was questionable before the game with an injured right ankle, opened the second half with three straight 3s and an assist before spraining his left ankle with 17:24 left. He eventually returned but only had six points after the injury.
“I asked myself what else could happen,” Pickett said about the injury. “I tried to keep my head in the game and work at keeping my teammates involved.”
N.C. State overcame Pickett’s effort by hitting 11 of 26 3-pointers, including six of its last eight attempts. N.C. State, which has made it to the ACC tournament title game the last two seasons, also made 19 of 22 free throws.
Playing without injured guard Scooter Sherrill, who sprained his ankle against North Carolina on Feb. 29, N.C. State had four players in double figures.
“That’s when we’re at our best,” Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. “I think our guys understood that in order to have a chance to come back in the game that they would have to make each other better.”
Bennerman was a key part of the balance. The Greensboro native had a career high in points for the second straight game. His steal and dunk with 30 seconds left made it 74-68.
“With Scooter hurt, I just have to bring as much energy as I possibly can and do whatever it took for us to win,” Bennerman said. “Obviously that took me putting up some points and playing good defense.”
Von Wafer also had 14 points for the Seminoles, who shot 49 percent from the field but made only 10 of 17 free throws.
“Florida State played as hard as anyone can play,” Sendek said. “I was certainly proud of the way our guys responded in the second half with the same kind of effort.”
N.C. State center Jordan Collins sprained his left knee in the second half, and is questionable for Saturday’s game.