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N.C. State 69, Michigan State 58

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — North Carolina State didn't make so much as asingle jump shot in the first half. Then, at halftime, coach HerbSendek solved Michigan State's defense.

Their perimeter-backdoor game held to a season-low 18 points inthe first half, the Wolfpack took the ball straight to the basketin the second and beat the Spartans 69-58 Friday in an EastRegional opener.

The loss ended Michigan State's streak of three straight FinalFour appearances, including the 2000 national championship.

Freshman Ilian Evtimov, sent out to start the second half bySendek, scored 10 of his 12 points after the break for theseventh-seeded Wolfpack (23-10), who overcame a 12-point halftimedeficit in their first NCAA tournament game in 11 years.

Another freshman, Julius Hodge, scored 16 points. That helpedcompensate for leading scorer Anthony Grundy, who scored 16 pointsbut sat out most of the second half because of foul trouble.

Chris Hill scored 21 points, and Marcus Taylor had 18 on just5-for-22 shooting for the 10th-seeded Spartans (19-12).

With the Spartans' guards waiting for them at the 3-point line,the Wolfpack were smothered as they tried to run their offense inthe first half. The backdoor was closed, outside shots werecontested, and all their points came from layups, runners in thepaint and foul shots.

The Spartans closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a30-18 lead. The Wolfpack were 6-for-24 from the field, including0-for-6 from 3-point range.

But Evtimov became a major player in the second half. Ratherthan look for the backdoor or the outside shot, the Wolfpack droveto the paint and produced four three-point plays in the secondhalf. They started the half with an 11-2 run, going 5-for-5 fromthe field and forcing three turnovers in Michigan State's firstfive possessions.

Hodge converted back-to-back three-point plays to tie the scoreat 37, and Scooter Sherrill followed with two free throws to giveN.C. State its first lead since 6-5.

Meanwhile, the Spartans couldn't figure out how to score on theWolfpack's aggressive defense. Open shots were few and far between,and the deficit was as big as 13 before consecutive 3-pointers byHill and Taylor cut the lead to 60-55 with 2:21 remaining.

But the Wolfpack went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line in thefinal two minutes to stop the comeback.

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