- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

N.C. State is college basketball’s equivalent of Novocain, which can be extremely effective on opponents subject to concentration lapses — such as Florida State.

Herb Sendek’s walk-and-pass Wolfpack imposed their mind-numbing will on the submissive Seminoles yesterday in the first round of the ACC tournament at MCI Center. N.C. State deliberately dismissed its foe by milking the clock, often finishing with a backdoor layup or wide-open 3-pointer by Ilian Evtimov, who hit five rainbow 3’s in the first half.

The Wolfpack’s aesthetically appalling 70-54 win might have served more of a purpose than lulling a crowd that became sparse after halftime. Seventh-seeded N.C. State (18-12) is still hoping to earn a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament bid. However, with an RPI of 79 before yesterday, it may take an upset of second-seed Wake Forest in tonight’s quarterfinal to earn a ticket to the Big Dance.

“We knew we had to get this win so it feels great,” said N.C. State’s Julius Hodge, who had 14 points and seven assists. “Hopefully, that improves our chances. All we can do is continue to play basketball, play great defense and show up with our pearly whites [smiles].”

The rematch with the Demon Deacons, who beat N.C. State 55-53 on Senior Day in Raleigh on Sunday, should be much more intriguing than yesterday’s snoozer. Wake Forest will play without All-ACC point guard Chris Paul, who is serving a one-game suspension for punching Hodge below the waist.

Hodge, clearly programmed by Sendek, sidestepped the question of any extra significance in meeting Wake again and said he “is looking forward to tomorrow.”

While the Wolfpack moved on, the 10th-seeded Seminoles (12-19) ended the season with a whimper. The last time Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton was on the sideline in the building was shortly before he was fired as Washington Wizards coach by then-team president Michael Jordan following his only season here in 2000-01.

This time he was sent packing by a painstaking N.C. State squad that frustrated the inexperienced and focus-challenged ‘Noles.

“They were extremely patient on offense,” said Hamilton, in his third season in Tallahassee. “They were extremely savvy at penetrating and getting Evtimov involved early. Unfortunately for us, they hit those early looks. Once again, we dug a hole for ourselves.”

N.C. State broke early to an 11-0 lead on Hodge’s 3-pointer at 15:58, effectively ending the competitive portion of the contest. Later, 3-pointers by Evtimov (game-high 18 points) and Hodge made it 31-13. The Wolfpack’s sagging man-to-man defense also confused the Seminoles, who trailed 33-19 at the half after shooting 30.8 percent and making one of nine 3-pointers.

The second half had about as much excitement as Paris Hilton’s acting career. It took nearly eight minutes for the Seminoles to manage a field goal. A 3-pointer by Engin Atsur (17 points, nine rebounds) gave the Wolfpack a 48-24 lead with 13:38 left.

Florida State made it moderately interesting by speeding up the game and going on a 16-5 run to cut N.C. State’s advantage to 59-51 after a layup by Al Thornton with 2:49 left.

The Seminoles even forced a turnover on the inbounds pass but quickly turned it back over. A layup by Cameron Bennerman (12 points) reopened the lead to 10.

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