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March 19, 2009
Frontcourt carries NC State's offense
Sidney Lowe often said throughout the 2008-2009 season that everything started on the inside for the Wolfpack, and worked itself out.NC State coach
The statistics backed up what Lowe said with three of the top four leading scorers all players who played power forward or center.
The Wolfpacker takes a look back at how the small forward, power forward and center positions did this past season.
Small forward: C
The two main players that split their time at the small forward position had better numbers when they played another position. Senior Courtney Fells started 14 of the first 17 games at small forward before moving to shooting guard for the second half of the Boston College game Jan. 24.
Fells, who played shooting guard his first three years at NC State, started the season pretty solid with 23 points against High Point on Nov. 22, and 22 against North Carolina Greensboro on 9 of 13 shooting Nov. 30. He shot 24 of 47 for 51 percent (7 of 16 on three-pointers) before suffering a deep bruise near his ankle in the Davidson game Dec. 6.
Fells missed the following two games and only played six minutes in a tune-up role against Lipscomb on Dec. 20, before returning to the starting lineup. He scored between eight points and 12 in the seven games following his return but didn't have that same spark, which became more obvious during the first four games of the ACC schedule when he shot 14 of 38 for 36.8 percent.
When Fells missed two games and most of a third, senior Simon Harris made the first three shots of his NC State career. Harris had six points and six rebounds in 20 minutes against Winston-Salem State for his best game of the season. Harris averaged 1.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 11.7 minutes per game in 19 appearances.
Redshirt junior Brandon Costner, who is 6-9 and 231, moved to small forward when Fells went back to shooting guard. Junior Dennis Horner also saw time at both small forward and power forward.
Costner's scoring dipped to 11.9 points per game with five contests in single digits. He also had six points and four boards in the Boston College game when the move to the big lineup occurred. The scoring average was skewed by a 25-point, 13-board effort against North Carolina Central when he played power forward with Tracy Smith nursing a slight knee injury.
Costner did explode for 23 points and nine boards in the 82-76 upset victory over Wake Forest on Feb. 11 when he went against the tall, physical Demon Deacons frontline.
Redshirt freshman Johnny Thomas also saw time at small forward before dropping out of the rotation and not playing nine of the last 10 games. Thomas had nine points on 4 of 6 shooting in the win over North Carolina Central on Feb. 3, and had five points in a pair of games in ACC action. The 6-5, 203-pounder became a fan favorite with his hustle, athleticism and toughness coming back from a severe knee injury. He averaged 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 11 minutes per game in 14 contests.
Power forward: B-
Costner and Smith both started at power forward, with Horner providing depth in reserve.
Costner started the first 17 games and was off to a good start on the season, averaging 14.1 points and 6.3 rebounds during that stretch. Costner flashed his redshirt freshman year form by becoming the go-to guy down the stretch during the non-conference slate.
Costner lit up East Carolina for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the 87-76 win Dec. 17. He also had 18 points and 11 rebounds against Davidson on Dec. 6. Costner dished out 10 assists in helping set up Smith inside in the win over Towson.
Perhaps Costner's top two games came against Marquette and Florida, both narrow losses. Costner went 9 of 10 from the field and hit all five three-point attempts for 24 points, plus added eight rebounds and four assists in the heartbreaking 68-65 loss to Marquette on Dec. 22.
Costner scored 24 points on 9 of 11 shooting (2 of 3 on three-pointers) in the 68-66 loss to Florida on Jan. 3.
Smith permanently moved into the starting lineup following the Boston College game. He scored 31 points in the previously mentioned Towson win, and had double digits in four other non-conference games. He sparked the Wolfpack with 17 points and eight rebounds in just 24 minutes against Boston College.
Smith had some bumpy moments with a combined 4 for 12 for eight points against Miami and North Carolina after moving into the starting lineup, but then found his scoring groove. He had between 12 and 19 points in nine-straight games, plus averaged 6.8 rebounds per game (3.8 on the offensive boards).
Smith finished the season averaging 10.0 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes per game. The 6-8, 240-pounder shot 54 percent from the field, but just 59.3 on free throws.
Horner also picked up his play after the big lineup was introduced. He scored between 10 and 13 points in seven out of 13 games, including a season-high 13 at North Carolina.
Part of Horner's success was finding confidence in his three-point shot. The 6-9, 218-pounder went 19 of 40 from beyond the arc for 47.5 percent over the last 13 games.
Horner finished the year averaging 6.4 points and 2.8 rebounds in 18.9 minutes of action. He shot 45 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from three-point range and 82 from the free-throw line.
Senior Ben McCauley was the one starter who never had to worry about his role this season. In turn, he proved to be a workhorse inside, averaging 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 29.7 minutes per game. He shot 53.8 percent from the field and 71. 1 at the free-throw line.
McCauley eight double-doubles for points and rebounds, and had eight rebounds or more in 14 contests.
The 6-9, 237-pounder cracked 20 points or more in three games, and was held to single digits in eight. He had a season-high 25 points and 15 rebounds in the 91-87 loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 8. He also had 20 points against Boston College and East Carolina.
What helped McCauley and the Wolfpack out this past season was having Smith emerge as a quality backup center before he moved into the starting lineup. McCauley, Smith and Costner formed a solid three-man rotation that proved productive and kept all three players fresh.
When Costner moved to small forward, Horner's emergence at forward helped Smith get some backup minutes behind McCauley, plus what he was receiving at power forward.