Neither a game much closer than expected nor serious foul trouble could keep the smile off Julius Hodge's face. No. 17 North Carolina State beat Columbia 84-74 last night in the...

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NEW YORK — Neither a game much closer than expected nor serious foul trouble could keep the smile off Julius Hodge’s face.



No. 17 North Carolina State beat Columbia 84-74 last night in the first round of the Holiday Festival.



Forget that the Wolfpack was a 23-point favorite. Forget that Hodge was limited to 12 minutes in the second half because of fouls. This was the former New York City high-school standout’s first game at Madison Square Garden and he had a win.



“That was definitely a great feeling, playing in front of my family and friends,” said Hodge, who scored 22 points. “My mom over there smiling every time I make a play, my brother telling me to make free throws, my little cousin smiling and cheering, it definitely felt great.”



North Carolina State (10-1) lost to Washington 68-64 on Dec. 19 in Seattle.



Columbia (6-3) was down 59-58 with 8:57 to play before the Wolfpack went on a 14-1 run with Hodge on the bench.



“The guys definitely stepped up and made shots when I wasn’t in the game,” Hodge said.



Cameron Bennerman scored a career-high 24 points for North Carolina State.



North Carolina State will play St. John’s for the tournament title tomorrow night. The Red Storm (5-4) beat Canisius 71-51 in the opening round.





Other games





At No. 4 North Carolina 96, N.C.-Wilmington 75



Jawad Williams scored a season-high 25 points and Sean May added 16 to help the Tar Heels (10-1) beat the Seahawks (5-4).



Freshman Marvin Williams of Bremerton, Melvin Scott and May were called for technical fouls in the second half.



“I was very disappointed with the way we reacted in the second half,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.





At No. 7 Syracuse 72, Albany 55



Hakim Warrick collected 22 points and 14 rebounds as the Orange (12-1) defeated the Great Danes (4-5).





At No. 9 Georgia Tech 92, Lafayette 58



Freshman Anthony Morrow scored a career-high 20 points, including 11 in a late 27-3 surge, as the Yellow Jackets (9-1) beat the Leopards (3-7).





At No. 11 Connecticut 73, Sacred Heart 55



Josh Boone had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season as the Huskies (7-1) beat the Pioneers (1-8).



UConn trailed by three at halftime, but outscored Sacred Heart 40-19 in the second half.





At No. 16 Iowa 73, Air Force 63



Pierre Pierce scored 19 points to help the Hawkeyes (11-1) hold off the Falcons (6-5).



Air Force made things interesting after falling behind 61-37.





At No. 24 Maryland 112, Liberty 68



John Gilchrist scored a season-high 29 points and Nik Caner-Medley had 20 as the Terrapins (8-2) beat the Flames (1-8) to improve to 106-2 in nonconference home games since the 1989-90 season.



Larry Blair scored 30 points for Liberty.