Mark Gottfried has brought a fast-paced, high energy offense to NC State as evidenced by the team's scoring numbers. The Wolfpack currently ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and is 12th nationally in scoring with 78.5 points per game.
The Pack's offensive production has improved dramatically since Gottfried took over the program prior to last season. In 2010-11, the campaign prior to his arrival, State ranked 115th nationally and sixth in the ACC in scoring with 70.7 point per game. Last year, his first season with the Wolfpack, the average was up slightly to 72.9 points per game - the nation's 59th-best mark at season's end.
The NC State single season record for points per game is 92.9, set in 1973. State has already scored at least 80 points in 12 contests this season - the highest total for a Wolfpack squad since 2005-06 (13).
Mark Gottfried is bringing top-level talent to Raleigh, as both of his recruiting classes have been ranked in the top-10 nationally. Last year, having just seven months till the fall signing period, Gottfried brought in the No. 5 recruiting class in the nation, including three McDonald's All-Americans.
It marked the first time the Wolfpack had three McDonald's All-Americans in the same class since 1979. Gottfried followed up with three more recruits signed in November and that class currently ranks ninth nationally.
Gottfried came to NC State with the reputation of being a first-class recruiter. In three of his final four seasons at Alabama, Gottfried's recruiting classes were nationally ranked: 10th in 2005, 27th in 2007, and 16th in 2008.
THE DUKE SERIES
Thursday's meeting will mark the 79th time that NC State has faced a top- 10 Duke squad, as the Blue Devils are currently ranked fourth. It marks the seventh straight trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium when NC State will face a top 5 Blue Devil squad. The 2003 matchup is the last time Duke was not ranked in the top 5 when NC State came to town (the Blue Devils were No. 8 that season).
In two of the Pack's last three trips to Cameron Indoor Stadium, NC State held the halftime lead. In 2009, the Wolfpack was up in a defensive battle 26-22. Last season, the Pack held a 46-30 lead at the break.
The Pack is 18-60 against Duke when the Blue Devils are ranked in the top five, but is 1-0 this season.
SECOND TIME'S THE CHARM
Duke is the first opponent that NC State will be facing twice this season.
Last year, the Pack was 6-2 when facing a conference foe the second time around (or third time for Boston College and North Carolina in the ACC Tournament). Take out two losses to UNC when State faced them for the second and third time last season and the Pack was a perfect 6-0 when facing ACC opponents for the second time in Mark Gottfried's first season.
FRONT COURT LIKES BLUE DEVILS
NC State's starting front court duo of C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell have played some of their best games when facing off against Duke. The pair helped the Pack to the upset of top-ranked Duke back on Jan. 12, as they combined for 41 points and 24 rebounds with each playing 38 minutes.
For their careers, Leslie has averaged 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in three career games against the Blue Devils, while Howell has posted 12.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in his four career games. Going back to a 2003 home win against Duke, one of the Pack's biggest keys to knocking off the Blue Devils has been the play of its post players.
EARLIER THIS SEASON VS. THE BLUE DEVILS
The last time NC State and top-ranked Duke met on Jan. 12 at PNC Arena, the Wolfpack toppled the Blue Devils, 84-76. The NC State victory also snapped Duke's season-opening 15-game winning streak and marked the second time that the Wolfpack had beaten the Blue Devils when they held the top spot in the polls. Junior C.J. Leslie scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed six boards to lead the Pack. Senior Richard Howell registered a double double of 16 points and 18 rebounds, while Lorenzo Brown also notched a double double of 12 points and all 13 of the Wolfpack assists in the contest.
Rounding out the scoring for NC State was senior Scott Wood and freshman T.J. Warren with 14 and 10 points, respectively. The Pack shot 50 percent from the floor and was 87 percent from the charity stripe. NC State also doubled up Duke at the free throw line, making 20, while the Blue Devils only made 10.
LAST SEASON VS. THE BLUE DEVILS
NC State played Duke only once last season at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 16, 2012. The Wolfpack got off to a fast start before the Blue Devils stormed back to take a 78-73 victory in the closing moments. Then-sophomore Lorenzo Brown had a team-best 19 points and five assists for the Wolfpack, which led by as many as 20 points in the first half. Duke cut NC State's 13-point second-half lead down to two points with three minutes to play and then scored the final five points of the contest to take the dramatic come-from-behind victory.
C.J. Leslie had 12 points, nine rebounds and a career-high six blocks for the Wolfpack. It marked the third time in the four years that the Wolfpack and Blue Devils met only once in the regular season.
NC State leads the ACC with 24 individual double-doubles this season - the next closest team is Duke with 14.
Richard Howell leads the ACC with 13 double-doubles on the season, posting six in conference play. Duke's Mason Plumlee is second in both categories, with 12 on the season and four in ACC games. Howell's mark ranks fourth nationally.
Howell had posted double-digit point and rebound totals in four straight games before being held to just eight caroms to go with 15 points versus Miami on Saturday. For the season, Howell has posted 13 double-doubles, which ranks as the most for a Wolfpack player since center Todd Fuller had 13 as a junior in 1994-95 and ties as the eighth-highest mark in school history.
The most for any Wolfpack player over the last four decades is 7-foot-2 center Tommy Burleson's 26 during the Wolfpack's 1974 NCAA championship season. Burleson also had 21 as a sophomore and 19 as a junior for a total of 66 in his three-year career.
CUTTING IT CLOSE
Seven points. That's all that separates the 2012- 13 Wolfpack from its current 5-4 mark in ACC action and a perfect 9-0 slate.
NC State's ACC losses at Maryland, at Wake Forest, at Virginia and vs. Miami were decided by a combined seven points, and all were decided in the final 10 seconds.
DOWN WITHOUT BROWN
Junior point guard Lorenzo Brown went down with an ankle injury midway through the first half at Virginia on Jan. 29, and missed the rest of that game and the Pack's home loss to Miami on Saturday.
The Miami contest marked the first game of Brown's career that he has missed, breaking a string of 59 straight starts.
Over the last two games in Brown's absence, NC State has gone from averaging 79.7 points to 67.0 points, while assists are also down from 15.3 in the first 20 games to 10.5.
A pair of freshmen have handled the point guard duties in his absence: Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis. Although Purvis got the starting nod against Miami, it was Lewis off the bench that sparked the offense with a career-high16 points in 36 minutes. He also added five assists.
STARTING OUT STRONG
Over the last five games, the Pack has come out firing and grabbed first-half leads. In the 100 minutes of action in the first half over the last five games, the Pack has only trailed for 13:13. Even more impressive, in the four games prior to the Miami contest, the Pack trialed only for 1:29 in 80 minutes of action.
In each of the last five games, the Pack has built at least an eight-point first half lead (Clemson 11, Wake Forest 16, North Carolina 23, Virginia 11, Miami 8), and has gone into the half ahead in each game, by an average of 10.4 points (197-145).
In the second half, the numbers have been a little different. The Pack has been outscored in the second half each of the last five games by an average margin of 8.8 points (177-223).
In those five contests, the opponents have combined to shoot just 39.8 percent (64-161) in first half action, but that percentage jumps to 54.5 percent (84-154) after the break. The opponents have averaged 29.0 points in the first half, but increased that amount to 44.6 points after the break.
LESLIE PULLS TRIPLE DUTY
NC State's C.J. Leslie is definitely counted on by his team for his scoring. Leslie leads the Wolfpack with 15.7 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the ACC heading into the game at Duke. He has posted the Pack's high point total in eight contests this season.
Leslie is also counted on for rebounding. Although his rebounding numbers sometime go unnoticed because of Richard Howell's prowess in that category, he ranks ninth in the league with 7.5 boards per game.
The junior has also been counted on for accuracy. His .554 field goal percentage ranks fourth in the current league rankings. Leslie, BC's Ryan Anderson and Duke's Mason Plumlee are the only players in the ACC to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
EARLY AND OFTEN
Senior sharpshooter Scott Wood has played in a team-high 125 career games and has started 123 of those contests.
In NC State history, only 2004 ACC Player of the Year Julius Hodge started more contests. Hodge got the nod 125 times.
ALL ABOUT THE OFFENSE
NC State currently ranks second in the ACC in scoring at 78.5 points per game, which ties as the 12th-best mark nationally. The Pack is one of six teams with five double-figure scorers, so it's probably safe to say that the offense is the driving force behind State's success.
In the Pack's 16 wins, Mark Gottfried's squad is averaging 83.3 points per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the field (474-893). In those 16 wins, NC State has been held under 70 points only once.
However, when the Pack's offense has stalled, the results have not been positive. In its six losses, NC State averaged just 65.8 points a game, shooting 42.1 percent from the floor (127- 302). In three of those six games, NC State was held under 60 points.