December 16, 2002 RALEIGH It was great to see sophomore guard Julius Hodge become the first player in N.C. State basketball history to record an official triple-double. His 11 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against woeful Curtis Hunter-coached North Carolina A&T in mid-December made him the 15th player in league history to record an official triple-double. In all, it was the 19th such performance by a league player. But there were two things about the accomplishment that probably didn't make the game story that appeared in your local newspaper.
First, Hodge tried just a little too hard to get it, giving the ball away on several easy layup possibilities to pad his assist total. In the end, the thing he almost didn't get was the double-figure points. He had to come back in late in the game (a 101-63 blowout) to get his final basket, which he scored off an offensive rebound, to get the necessary points.
That was all well and good, and it's wonderful to see such a multi-talented player in a Wolfpack uniform again, but it didn't help Hodge's hot-dogging reputation around the league.
Second, it's likely that there were other triple-doubles at NCSU in the past.
The school didn't begin keeping assist totals until 1972-73, and it didn't keep blocked shot totals until after the Tommy Burleson era, beginning in 1975-76. Burleson, who once blocked the last seven shots of the game against Purdue, was likely to have several triples of points-rebounds-blocks, similar to those recorded by Brendan Haywood, Tim Duncan, Sharone Wright, Ralph Sampson and Tree Rollins around the ACC.
Hodge will be recorded as the first triple-double in school history, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him add a few more during his time in Raleigh, but it's OK to put a mental asterisk by the accomplishment.
Thus Far, Seven Reliable Players
Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek has a much shorter bench this year than last.
In the most challenging game of the young season, against South Carolina, Sendek used only seven players. Guard Scooter Sherrill and forward Marcus Melvin both played 38 minutes, and Hodge played 39.
That's way too many minutes for key players on a team that hopes to press its way into the upper division of the ACC standings, and Sendek undoubtedly realizes it. He's just waiting on Jordan Collins, Dominick Mejia, Cameron Bennerman and Will Roach to prove they deserve more time.
Collins still hasn't gotten his touch back after his preseason broken hand. Roach and Mejia both came off the bench and were impressive against North Carolina A&T, which was about a half-step above your mid-level YMCA squad. Neither has done it yet in a challenging game, something the Wolfpack needs. Bennerman is still a lost freshman at times.
Fortunately for Sendek, the Wolfpack still has two games left against nobody, plus a road trip to the Jimmy V Classic to face Gonzaga and another to Massachusetts before the ACC season begins. He'll have to find his depth somewhere in those games.
Reynolds Visit Very Worthwhile
All in all, going back to Reynolds Coliseum was a good idea for the Wolfpack.
It was great to hear Joan Sloan, the wife of former NCSU coach Norm Sloan, warble out the national anthem one more time. It was equally good to hear C.A. Dillon's beautifully scratchy voice on the public address system, as undecipherable as ever. It was even good to see the bogus noise meter lit up one more time.
There were 7,227 people in attendance, but that shouldn't be interpreted as a lack of interest. Reynolds has seen its capacity diminished down to about 9,000 seats, down from the 12,400 of its heyday. The game was not part of the regular season-ticket package.
Students, despite being in exams, came to the game to see what the fuss was about, since most of them never had been to a game in the old barn. The Wolfpack moved into the RBC Center in the fall of 1999, when this year's seniors were freshmen.
It was great to go back to Reynolds, Hodge said. I wish we could play all of our regular-season games there.
The Pack likely will play there again next year, since Disney on Ice, the event that pushed the Wolfpack out of the arena, has contracted to return to the RBC at the same time next year. It's something the N.C. State athletic department agreed to let happen.
All in all, it's a great way to encourage the basketball program and its many followers to remember its storied roots and heritage.
Passionate Fans Deserve Credit
We were wrong. In the last issue of the Sports Journal, we wrote that N.C. State's promise of selling between 25,000-30,000 tickets for the Gator Bowl was a bit of a stretch.
We're man enough magazine enough? to admit we were wrong. When all was said and done, and it was said and done quickly, Wolfpack fans stepped up to the queue and bought 26,500 tickets for the Jan. 1 game against Notre Dame, sometimes selling 4,000-5,000 tickets a day at its ticket office in Raleigh. The total was more than double the initial (required) allotment of 12,500 given to each school.
State quickly went through that allotment, then asked for two additional batches of 5,000 and another of 2,500 and claimed about 1,500 tickets for players' families, school administration, the marching band and other school-affiliated folks.
By the time Notre Dame finally was selected for the matchup, nearly two weeks after the Gator Bowl committee chose the Wolfpack, there were precious few tickets available for the Fighting Irish's national audience, who bought more tickets through the bowl office than through Notre Dame.
There's no way to tell exactly how many tickets Wolfpack fans bought directly through the Gator, but there is a good chance that the 73,000-seat stadium will be close to half-filled with red-wearing spectators. In other words, it will look a lot like the Smith Center and Kenan Stadium when the Wolfpack played there this year.
The Gator Bowl, which took some heat for picking the Pack, couldn't be happier. President Rick Catlett said he had never experienced a quicker sellout in his 10 years with the bowl. It's also the first time in the 58-year history of the game that the Gator has two 10-win teams, though that doesn't mean quite as much since the Wolfpack played 13 regular-season games and Notre Dame played 12. Historically, of course, college football teams have played 11 or fewer regular-season contests annually.
NBC certainly ought to be happy, too. It gets to broadcast its golden-helmeted darling on the first game of the day in front of a sold-out stadium and an always-high television audience.
The big losers in this were Maryland and Virginia, the schools that doubted whether N.C. State traveled well to bowl games and were miffed that the Wolfpack, which lost to both and finished behind both in the ACC final standings, was picked ahead of them for the game.
Maryland, which sold 22,200 tickets to the Orange Bowl last season, was having a difficult time selling even half of its allotted 20,000 tickets (2,500 more than required, at the request of aggressive AD Debbie Yow) to the Peach Bowl. The school even reached the point where coach Ralph Friedgen and other school officials were contacting supporters through e-mail and other means to generate late support for the trip to Atlanta.
It seems like all the bowls are a little behind, Friedgen said. I don't know if it's the economy or the fact that we've been to the Orange Bowl, the Kickoff Classic and the national championship basketball game all in the last year. The same people are attending those games.
Virginia, meanwhile, had the shortest trip of any of the ACC's seven bowl teams and did a great job of selling tickets to the inaugural Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte at 73,367-seat Ericsson Stadium. Only a few hundred tickets remained for the matchup between West Virginia and the Cavaliers about two weeks before the game.