COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What big numbers North Carolina State's Wolfpack had in its NCAA Tournament opener against San Diego State.
Its superior height and longer arms impossible to ignore, N.C. State's fairly voracious 57.4 shooting percentage (compared to S.D. State's 37.7), board strength (30-25) and edge in assists (13-8) all conspired to eat up the Aztecs, 79-65, in a Midwest Regional game, the first of four regional games here Friday.
"They were big," said S.D. State sophomore Jamaal Franklin, who led all scorers with 23 points and insisted he was "not scared of no man."
But he shot only 6-for-15 from the floor against an N.C. State lineup that had superior size on Franklin and his mates. And what big plays N.C. State had down the stretch, or whenever San Diego State threatened to escape the jaws of what technically was an upset, given the seeds -- N.C. State (23-12) at No. 11 and S.D. State (26-8) at No. 6.
"It's one thing to be big," S.D. State coach Steve Fisher said. "It's another thing to be big and good. They had long arms to come in and take away a big shot."
When S.D. State, chasing from behind the last 26 minutes, edged within two points with 16:47 to play, N.C. State junior Scott Wood nailed a long two-pointer and a three-pointer in succession. When S.D. State closed within four with 10:29 left, junior forward Richard Howell converted a power layup and a free throw.
S.D. State never got closer than five again, at 61-56, with 7:40 to go.
Howell, especially, was sinking his teeth into S.D. State's defense, shooting 10-for-12 from the field for 22 points. Sophomore Lorenzo Brown had 17 points and nine rebounds, sophomore C.J. Leslie added 15 points and Wood had 10.