ORLANDO, Fla. -- North Carolina State will have to play
better to stay in the NCAA Tournament, let alone make a run at the
The Wolfpack, seeded third in the Phoenix Regional, overcame a
slow start Friday to beat Louisiana-Lafayette 61-52 in an opening
round game that sometimes resembled an early-season matchup with
its ragged play and poor shooting.
Marcus Melvin scored 20 points and North Carolina State (21-9)
survived a subpar performance by ACC player of the year Julius Hodge, who struggled all afternoon and was held to 14 points on
Louisiana-Lafayette (20-9) kept it interesting, cutting its
biggest deficit -- 11 points -- to seven on Antoine Landry's
3-pointer with just under three minutes to go. North Carolina State
put the game away by going 6-for-6 from the foul line the rest of
Landry led Louisiana-Lafayette with 16 points, but the Ragin'
Cajuns shot just 32.7 percent from the field, including 5-for-22 on
North Carolina State entered the tournament after squandering a
19-point second-half lead in a loss to Maryland in the semifinals
of the ACC tournament.
Yet the Wolfpack still seemed primed to make their deepest run
in the postseason since Jim Valvano led the school to its last
national championship in 1983 with a No. 3 seeding on the strength
of its second-place regular-season finish in the ACC.
But Louisiana-Lafayette was hardly awed by the Wolfpack's
seeding or Hodge.
The Ragin' Cajuns led for much of the first half and weathered a
North Carolina State surge to trail just 27-23 at the break,
despite shooting just 25 percent (6-of-24) in the first 20 minutes.
The Sun Belt Conference champions thrived on 3-point shots
during the regular season, but misfired on 11 of 12 attempts from
beyond the arc in the opening half and were nearly as bad after the