...but Oklahoma St. vs. N.C. St. is winner


COLLEGE PARK -- Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton isn't often wrong. After all, you don't take four schools to the NCAA tournament and win 453 games by making a lot of mistakes.

But Sutton almost certainly missed the mark yesterday when he suggested that Oklahoma State and North Carolina State were similar in style.

"There's very little difference . . . I would think that a series would be even," Sutton said.

That may be, but something would have to give along the way.

The Cowboys (23-7), the East's third seed, who knocked off New Mexico 67-54 to advance to tomorrow's second-round game here, are deliberate and precise in the halfcourt.

By contrast, the Wolfpack (20-10) is frenetic, fast-paced and usually deadly on the perimeter.

As such, the N.C. State game plan for tomorrow should look much like the one that got it past Southern Mississippi 114-85 yesterday.

"Against a team like Oklahoma State, that is so strong inside, we have to play our game," said forward Tom Gugliotta. "We need to get up and down the floor and not give up too many easy points."

For most of the season, the Wolfpack has been scoring points fairly easily. N.C. State has broken the 100-point mark seven times, including twice against Maryland, and tallied 90 on seven other occasions, on the way to leading the ACC in scoring at an 89.3 clip.

Oklahoma State, however, in winning the Big Eight regular-season title, scored 100 points only twice, and scored 90 points only three times, finishing sixth in the league in scoring at 80.9 per game.

What the Cowboys do is play lots of defense. They led the conference in team defense, allowing only 66.5 points per game.

"If you look at teams that will do well, they will be those that are solid defensively," said Sutton. "After [yesterday and today], I would think that all of the 32 teams that would advance would be able to play good defense."

That would appear to place N.C. State at a disadvantage, because the Wolfpack was the worst in the ACC, allowing 83.8 points per game.

"Our defense isn't as intense as others," said Wolfpack coach Les Robinson. "We don't full-court press because we only play about six players."

But when those six, especially Gugliotta, point guard Chris Corchiani, reserve guard Migjen Bakalli and ACC Player of the Year Rodney Monroe are hitting, the Wolfpack can simply outscore opponents.

Even on a day like yesterday when Monroe could hit only eight of 22 shots, there are enough shots and points to go around.

And they know that sooner or later, Monroe, who averaged nearly 28 points a game, will find his touch.

"We shoot so much in practice that it comes easy or like second nature," said Monroe. "I just keep shooting and hopefully it falls in."

The Wolfpack will have its hands full with 6-foot-7 junior center Byron Houston, who shared Big Eight Player of the Year honors with Missouri's Doug Smith.

Houston pulled down 17 rebounds and scored 21 points, most of them over New Mexico's 7-2 Luc Longley.

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