Evtimov gives Wolfpack a spark in 71-51 victory
Posted: Tuesday November 25, 2003 10:53PM; Updated: Wednesday November 26, 2003 1:38AM
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The black, bulky brace on his left knee didn't stop Ilian Evtimov from draining a 3-pointer, finding a teammate with a nifty pass or crashing the boards.
After missing last season with a knee injury, the redshirt sophomore is returning to form for No. 25 North Carolina State.
After going scoreless in last week's season opener, Evtimov had 11 points and six rebounds to lift the Wolfpack to a 71-51 win against Howard on Tuesday night.
Scooter Sherrill scored 17 points and Julius Hodge added 15 for the Wolfpack (2-0), who improved to 59-6 at home against nonconference opponents under eighth-year coach Herb Sendek. That includes a 36-4 mark in the four years since moving to the RBC Center from Reynolds Coliseum.
The Wolfpack also improved to 18-0 against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. N.C. State plays another MEAC team, Florida A&M, on Friday.
Evtimov, a 6-foot-7 forward, had a steal and an assist in 23 minutes.
"I was more in a rhythm, but I'm still not exactly where I want to be," he said. "I'm getting close to it, but I just want to be playing out there more often. That's only going to help me."
Evtimov averaged 7.1 points for the Wolfpack during the 2001-02 season, but tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a preseason game last year. He went 0-for-4 from the field in the Wolfpack's 71-46 win against North Carolina-Asheville last week.
Evtimov appeared more comfortable Tuesday, going 2-for-7 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the line.
"It's going to be a process with him," Sendek said. "I think each time out he's going to gain confidence. He's going to work himself back."
Evtimov scored a team-high nine points in the first half, hitting his only 3-point attempt. He also demonstrated his passing ability with a one-handed bounce pass to a cutting Sherrill for a layup and a 61-37 lead.
"We expect Ilian to hit an open 3-pointer or make a no-look pass," Hodge said. "That's what he does."
Playing in front of a sparse crowd, the Wolfpack needed about 10 minutes and a modest offensive spurt to take a double-digit lead they would not relinquish. N.C. State led by 13 at halftime and pushed the lead to as many as 26 points after the break.
N.C. State hit 11 of 25 3-point tries and held the Bison to 35 percent shooting. The Wolfpack also forced 18 turnovers.
Sherrill went 6-of-8, including a 3-for-5 performance from behind the arc. Hodge added eight rebounds and seven assists.
Louis Ford scored 13 points to lead the Bison (1-2).
"They do a good job of running the backdoor play, which can free up some open shots from outside," Howard coach Frankie Allen said. "They've got so many shooters that can make that shot from the outside, so that makes you have to defend the perimeter."
N.C. State led 14-10 before taking control with nine straight points midway through the first half. Mike O'Donnell's 3-pointer from the left corner off a feed from Hodge started the run, which ended with Cameron Bennerman's layup for a 23-10 lead.
Hodge assisted on Bennerman's layup and an inside score from Evtimov during the spurt.
Howard scored five straight points to cut the margin to eight, but the Wolfpack answered with 3s from Sherrill and Evtimov on its next two possessions for a 29-15 lead with 4:45 left in the half.
N.C. State led 34-21 at halftime.