ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Shorthanded on offense, North Carolina State used its defense to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
Julius Hodge and Cameron Bennerman keyed a big defensive effort for the third-seeded Wolfpack as they posted a 61-52 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in the first round of the Phoenix Region.
North Carolina State (21-9) played its fourth straight game without starting shooting guard Scooter Sherrill, who averages 10.7 points. Sherrill is out with a muscle tear in his ankle.
With one of their top outside threats out, the Wolfpack concentrated on defense and stifled Louisiana-Lafayette's three-guard offense. Antoine Landry led the Ragin' Cajuns with 16 points, but Brad Boyd and Laurie Bridges struggled with the long arms and quick hands of Hodge and Bennerman, who started in place of Sherrill.
"Early on, they got a lot of shots that they missed," Wolfpack forward Marcus Melvin said. "We made a conscious effort not to let them get open 3-point shots as the game went on."
Boyd and Bridges combined to make 1-of-12 shots for nine points. The Ragin' Cajuns shot 33 percent (16-of-49) for the game.
"We rushed our shots early on," Boyd said. "We took quick shots and missed them and when you miss, you end up on defense most of the game."
Landry's 3-pointer cut the deficit to 53-46 with 2:02 remaining, but that was as close as Louisiana-Lafayette (20-9) got in the second half.
Melvin collected 20 points and nine rebounds and Hodge added 14 and 10. N.C. State enjoyed a 37-32 edge on the glass despite 37 percent (18-of-49) percent shooting.
"All week long we said this was going to be a challenging game," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. "Many of the analysts and pundits said they wouldn't be surprised if N.C. State went home after the first round."
With the rotation shortened, Sendek was forced to rely on his starters heavily as four logged at least 34 minutes. In addition, reserve Jordan Collins returned from a knee sprain that sidelined him for a game and managed only eight minutes off the bench.
The Wolfpack, the top free-throw shooting team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, took advantage of their opportunities at the line, as expected. Melvin made 7-of-8 attempts as N.C. State shot 83 percent (20-of-24).
"It's my job to get it going and understand that they are going to double- and triple-team Julius and somebody's got to step up and score points in order for us to get rolling."
The Ragin' Cajuns fell to 4-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. Louisiana-Lafayette lost for just the fourth time in 18 games.