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Updated: Thursday, January 2, 2003 9:49 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL PREVIEW
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No. 24 No Carolina St (7-1) at Massachusetts (4-6)
NORTH CAROLINA ST. WOLFPACK
North Carolina St. Wolfpack
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MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMEN
Massachusetts Minutemen
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AMHERST, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- With its conference opener just three days away, 24th-ranked North Carolina State visits William D. Mullins Memorial Center to face Massachusetts on Thursday.

The Wolfpack open their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against Virginia on Sunday but have to be careful not to overlook the Minutemen, who play their Atlantic 10 Conference opener the same day.

North Carolina State (7-1) has bounced back from its only loss with consecutive victories, including an 86-71 win against Wofford on Sunday.

Julius Hodge had 26 points and 11 rebounds and Cliff Crawford scored a career-high 22 points for the Wolfpack, who scored 14 of the game's first 18 points and never looked back.

North Carolina State, which is averaging 95 points in its last two games, shot 58 percent in a dominant second half.

Massachusetts has won three of four games since its December 10 collapse against Connecticut and routed Marshall, 81-58, on Saturday.

Micah Brand scored 17 points and Jackie Rogers added 15 for the Minutemen, who had their best offensive game of the season.

Massachusetts shot a season-high 57 percent from the floor and held Marshall to 37 percent.

The Minutemen have won both all-time meetings with the Wolfpack, including a victory in Raleigh last season.


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