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Hurricanes Drop ACC Opener To Wolfpack, 81-69

Dec. 18, 2005

Box Score

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Cameron Bennerman had a season-high 19 points and almost single-handedly turned the game around early in the second half, helping No. 21 North Carolina State hold off Miami 81-69 on Sunday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both.

Tony Bethel scored 12 of his 15 points on four 3-pointers in the opening 7 minutes for the Wolfpack (8-1), and teammate Illian Evtimov had all 11 of his points after halftime. Cedric Simmons controlled the paint, too, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.

N.C. State got a measure of revenge for a loss to the Hurricanes (6-4) early last season, the beginning of a rough start for the Wolfpack. They eventually fell to 2-4 in the conference before rallying to make the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season, and avoiding a similar hole early was particularly important.

Guillermo Diaz had 19 points for Miami, and Anthony King added 17.

Yet this one was mostly about Bennerman, a senior who has struggled at times to fit in with N.C. State. He sat out the opener for an unspecified violation of team rules and didn’t crack the starting lineup until the seventh game.

And he didn’t start out particularly well against the Hurricanes, since he was called for a technical foul midway through first half for grabbing the rim on an unsuccessful putback. But with the Wolfpack clinging to a three-point lead early in the second half, Bennerman took over.

He chased down a rebound that was headed into the seats and saved it with a behind-the-back pass to Simmons, who fed Ilian Evtimov in the paint. The ensuing shot was off, but Bennerman was there again to put back the miss.

He later added two free throws and a 3-pointer before jumping in the passing lane for a steal. As Bennerman leaped for what was going to be a double-clutch dunk, Miami guard Anthony Harris shoved him, causing the ball to bounce off the rim and drawing a foul on Harris.

It wasn’t called an intentional one, however, which incensed N.C. State coach Herb Sendek. Bennerman walked gingerly to the line and made both free throws, and Sendek dramatically urged the crowd to make some noise.

Yet the Hurricanes rallied. Six straight points got them within two before Bennerman led another charge. Following a 3 by Evtimov, Bennerman led a break that concluded with Andrew Brackman getting fouled and converting both free throws for a 60-52 lead.

Then Bennerman came around a screen by Evtimov to swish a 3-pointer of his own, and the Wolfpack had an 11-point lead, their largest of the game. Miami never recovered.

On defense, Bennerman was equally effective, helping hold Diaz to 6-of-15 shooting, including 2-of-7 on 3-pointers. Robert White, the Hurricanes’ second-leading scorer, was held to 13 points – about two below his average – after fighting early foul trouble.