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Wolfpack play 3-point game, like Bulldogs

BY
BY CHRIS BURKE
Daily Sports Editor
Published December 2, 2003

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker barely had time to catch his breath
after the Wolverines’ dramatic 61-60 overtime win over Butler
on Sunday.

That’s because the Wolverines had less than 48 hours to
prepare for a visit from North Carolina State tonight.

The Wolfpack, who earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament last year
and sat at No. 25 in the country last week, will battle with
Amaker’s bunch during the fifth Big Ten-ACC Challenge. N.C.
State fell out of the rankings this week, despite large wins over
Howard and Florida A&M. (Previously unranked Purdue and Georgia
Tech jumped into the top-25, knocking down everyone below
them).

“We just commented to our players that we have one day now
to get rested and get prepared,” Amaker said Sunday night.
“We’re looking forward to that. I think our kids are
excited and they’d probably do that rather than
practice.”

Perhaps benefiting the Wolverines’ cause is the fact that
N.C. State’s style of play will be similar to Butler’s
game plan.

Like the Bulldogs, the Wolfpack will be faced with serious
height issues in the low post against Michigan. While the
Wolverines (3-0) use 6-foot-9 Graham Brown, 6-foot-10 Courtney Sims
and 6-foot-11 Chris Hunter in their rotation, N.C. State regularly
uses no one taller than 6-foot-8. That’s because last
year’s starting center, Josh Powell, turned pro, and his
expected heir, Jordan Collins, is academically ineligible.

In lieu of a deep frontcourt, the Wolfpack tend to feature a
patient offense that runs around the 3-point arc, something
Michigan saw against Butler. National Player of the Year candidate
Julius Hodge, who is currently averaging 18 points, eight rebounds
and five assists per game, leads N.C. State’s attack. In the
first three games, Hodge has been complemented well in the
backcourt by senior Scooter Sherrill, who has posted 17 points per
game.

Forwards Levi Watkins and Marcus Melvin — a dangerous
inside-out threat — are both also averaging double digits in
points per game thus far. The Wolfpack lineup will be further
boosted by the debut of freshman Engin Atsur, who once netted 51 in
a game in his native Turkey.

All in all, N.C. State should provide a stiff test for a
potentially drained Michigan team.

On the other side of the fence, though, the Wolfpack are equally
concerned about trying to match up with the athletic
Wolverines.

“The one thing that really jumps out at you is their
size,” N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said on the
school’s official website. “They just have great length
… they really are a physically gifted team. We may have to
play one guy on another guy’s shoulders to be able to look at
them eye-to-eye. It’s really going to be a great challenge
for our team on the road.”

The best matchup of the night may pit Hodge against Michigan
forward Bernard Robinson, arguably the Wolverines’ best
defender and the one usually responsible for the other team’s
offensive star.

If Sunday night’s game against Butler was any indication,
the Wolverines will likely also try to utilize a 2-3 zone to limit
the number of looks N.C. State can get from 3-point land. The
Wolfpack have averaged 26 3-point attempts in their first three
games against UNC-Asheville, Howard and Florida A&M.
They’ve connected on 30-of-78 shots from behind the arc this
year, led by Sherrill’s 11-for-18 clip.

Michigan and N.C. State have not met since 1950, with the
Wolfpack holding a 2-1 lead in the series.