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Purdue is off to its worst start since 1962-63

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Julius Hodge jokingly compared himself to
Terrell Owens and then declared he should be the Heisman Trophy
winner of college basketball.

Just being himself was good enough.

Hodge had 22 points to offset some horrible shooting by his
teammates, leading North Carolina State (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) to a 60-53 victory
over Purdue on Monday night in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

Playing in his 100th career game, Hodge added eight rebounds and
five assists, while Ilian Evtimov scored 12 points and Cameron
Bennerman had 11 for N.C. State.

"Just missing shots," was how Hodge explained the poor
performance. "That's going to happen. I'm going to keep going to
my guys, though."

That he did. Praised by his coaches for his unselfishness after
the Wolfpack cruised through to the title in the BCA Invitational
to start the season, Hodge kept sharing the ball while the rest of
the team struggled.

Then, when Purdue did get close, he took it upon himself to
score.

"He's a big-time player," Boilermakers guard Brandon McKnight
said. "He might be national player of the year. Whenever they
needed a big basket or anything, it seemed like he came through for
them."

The Wolfpack (5-0) won their first four games by an average of
37 points but never could pull away from the Boilermakers (1-3),
who are off to their worst start since 1962-63 in coach Gene
Keady's farewell season.

Carl Landry led Purdue with 18 points, and McKnight added 14.

"We're not going to throw in the towel, I don't care if we get
to 1-13," McKnight said.

Through four games against mostly undermanned opponents, the
Wolfpack shot 58 percent from the field, and only Bennerman (48
percent) made less than half his shots. They were nearly as
effective from beyond the 3-point arc, making 47 percent over that
span.

Nothing was that easy against Purdue. N.C. State missed its
first eight 3s and shot 33 percent in each half, including Hodge's
8-for-15.

"I think we used up all of our made shots in the first four
games," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "We didn't have any
left."

Evtimov made consecutive 3-pointers sandwiched around a layup
for Landry, and Hodge added a free throw to give the Wolfpack a
43-35 lead. After a turnover by Purdue, Bennerman added another
from long distance to increase the margin to 11.

Later, when a jumper by McKnight cut it to seven, Evtimov drove
and drew the defense, then found Bennerman alone on the wing. He
swished another 3, and a steal and a dunk minutes later by Tony
Bethel made it 53-42 with 5:38 left.

"We had such poor passing when we needed a big basket," Keady
said. "One of our guys (Matt Kiefer) had eight turnovers, and you
can't win like that."

But the Boilermakers rallied, thanks to a questionable
intentional foul called by referee Karl Hess. Kiefer broke free
after a steal and was fouled hard -- but cleanly, according to
replays -- by Hodge. He made two free throws and added a 3-pointer
about 2 minutes later to cut the lead to 57-51.

McKnight then drove through the defense for an uncontested
layup, and Purdue was within four. Bethel later turned it over but
the Boilermakers got no closer.

"This was a good experience for our team and a great win,"
Sendek said. "There are going to be nights where we are not going
to shoot well, but we stayed with it and grinded out a win.

"Often times, the measure of a good team is being able to
adjust during the game."

Having Hodge makes that much easier. A four-year starter in an
era when most top stars spend only a year or two in college, he
plans to enjoy every second of his senior season.

Perhaps that's why he was particularly effusive after the game,
when he made the comments about Owens. He quickly insisted he was
joking.

"I don't need any controversy," he said.