Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bitter end (?) for Pack trio

This N.C. State team was going to go as far as Brandon Costner, Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley could take it. In the end, it wasn't very far.

State's season may have ended with Thursday's 74-69 first-round loss to Maryland, with the NCAA Tournament out of the question and an NIT bid very much in doubt.

So if this is how that trio goes out, after coming in with such high expectations, it's not exactly the kind of legacy they would have liked to leave.

"We'll sit back and watch this play out now," McCauley said. "We'll see if we can play on. If it is my last game, I had a great career. I love this school. I don't want it to end."

Fells and McCauley are seniors, Costner a junior who came in with them and redshirted his freshman year. His return, like the Pack's postseason prognosis, is questionable.

They were Herb Sendek recruits who played one year under him and three under Lowe, with a combined record of 63-56. As freshmen, they went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They never made it back.

Their big moment was the 2007 ACC Tournament, when the Pack upset Duke, Virginia and Virginia Tech on its way to a championship-game loss to North Carolina.

But high expectations fizzled last season when the addition of J.J. Hickson destroyed whatever chemistry that team concocted.
So this was a year for that group to redeem itself, and with Maryland as the first-round opponent, that certainly seemed possible. A tournament run was really all that was left for State to stop the season from spinning away into oblivion.

Instead, the Pack continued to underachieve, fading down the stretch both in the season — closing out 2-5 after appearing to turn the corner — and in many games, including Thursday when they were outscored 11-0 after taking a 62-61 lead.

McCauley did his part Thursday, with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting and seven rebounds, but Costner and Fells both spent the entire game in foul trouble and combined for nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. Neither was ever a factor, and for the Pack, that can only lead to disaster.

Beyond Tracy Smith, whose emergence as a legitimate ACC post player may have been the most promising development of the season, there isn't anyone else on the Pack's roster who can carry this team offensively.

State's success had to start and end with Costner, McCauley and Fells.
Thursday, it ended with them.

State was the No. 10 seed in 2007, just like this year. From similar orgins, dissimilar results. -- Luke DeCock, (Raleigh) News & Observer


Anonymous said...

There's always the CBI for these guys. Ask UVA last year.