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Best ACC finish for Wolfpack since 1989

3/6/2004

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Engin Atsur guessed he was in
kindergarten in Turkey the last time North Carolina State was near
the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.

The freshman made sure he was part of the revival Saturday,
making a career-high five 3-pointers to help the
Wolfpack (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) lock up second place in the ACC with an 81-70 victory over
No. 11 Wake Forest.

"I don't think I had even touched a basketball then," he said.
"Maybe I had seen one, but not touched."

Atsur went 5-for-7 from 3-point range, 6-of-8 from the field,
scored 17 points and had a team-high six assists to lead the
Wolfpack (19-8, 11-5) to their best conference finish since 1989.

Shortly after his final 3-pointer with 3:41 to play, the
scattering of North Carolina State fans began celebrating by
chanting "Wolfpack! Wolfpack!"

"If I am open, I don't hesitate to shoot," he said. "So I was
open today and I took my shots and they went in. I think that
helped us win the game today."

Wake Forest (19-8, 9-7) had a chance to tie the Wolfpack for
second place, but instead must now wait to see where it ends the
season. The Deacons can be wind up anywhere from third to fifth in
the ACC tournament seedings.

"It's a tournament and we'll go in wherever they put us," said
Justin Gray, who led Wake Forest with 23 points. "We had our
chances and blew it, so we'll just have to sit back and see how it
plays out for us."

The Wolfpack played their second straight game without star
Scooter Sherrill, who was out with a sprained ankle. But they
hardly missed him behind the best play of the season from Atsur,
sophomore Cameron Bennerman and junior Jordan Collins.

Bennerman had a career-high 16 points and six rebounds before
fouling out with 4:07 to play and Collins finished with 11 points.

"You know about Sherrill and Julius Hodge and Marcus Melvin,"
Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "But Atsur and Bennerman and
Collins, those three guys were just excellent for them today and
made the difference."

Hodge also scored 17 points for the Wolfpack and Melvin added
12.

Eric Williams scored 18 for Wake Forest, which shot just
7-for-23 from 3-point range and had only eight field goals in the
second half.

Still, the Deacons had cut it to 65-60 when Atsur made his
biggest shot of the game. He patiently stood alone in the corner,
waiting for his teammates to notice him. The ball was fired over to
him and he calmly drained his fifth 3-pointer of the game for a
68-60 lead.

"I tell the guys all the time, especially with Scooter out,
that they have to step it up," Hodge said. "I am always in the
ears about stepping up and playing hard. A lot of guys did that for
us today."

After Atsur's shot, Wake Forest turned the ball over on its next
two possessions and Hodge scored to make it 70-60. Wake then missed
on two straight baskets to let the game get away.

Williams rewarded Wake Forest for giving him his first start in
eight games by making his first six shots and scoring 14 in the
first half.

All of the Deacons were on the mark at the start of the game,
making 11 of their first 13 shots. Still, they could never open a
comfortable lead and were up just 40-38 at the break despite
shooting 60 percent.

They cooled off to start the second half, making just one of
their first five shots, and struggled when Gray picked up two quick
fouls and had to go to the bench with 17:24 to play.

North Carolina State pounced behind consecutive 3-pointers by
Jordan Collins and Bennerman to start a 13-2 run that put them up
51-44.

After Wake Forest cut it to 54-52, the Wolfpack switched into a
slow, deliberate pace of play that saw them close several long
possessions with timely baskets. North Carolina State scored on
five consecutive possessions -- letting the shot clock run almost
all the way down before Atsur hit a 3 and Collins scored on a hook
-- in a spurt that pushed its lead to 65-54.