Previewing NC State

The Blue Devils and Wolfpack tip off tonight at 7:00 PM EST in Raleigh at the RBC Center. The game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN with Mike Patrick and Jay Bilas calling the action.

NC State (11-6) vs. Duke (16-1)
Raleigh, N.C. -- RBC Center
TV: ESPN 7:00 PM EST (Mike Patrick & Jay Bilas)
MEET THE WOLFPACK

Head Coach: Sidney Lowe (5th Year)
Record at NC State: 82-68
Career v. Duke: 2-4

Projected Starters:
?12 Ryan Harrow (6-1, 160 Fr.) – 11.2 ppg, 3.4 apg
2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 185, Fr.) – 9.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg
15 Scott Wood (6-7, 175, So.) - 10.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg
5 C.J. Leslie (6-8, 205, So.) – 11.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg
23 Tracy Smith (6-8, 255, Sr.) – 15.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Top Reserves:
0 DeShawn Painter (6-9, 230, So.) – 5.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg
10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 175, Sr.) – 5.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg
1 Richard Howell (6-8, 260, So.) – 7.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg
21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 220, Jr.) - 4.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg
14 Jordan Vandenberg (7-1, 250, So.) - 1.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg


Series History: This will be the 223rd meeting between the two programs with the Blue Devils holding a commanding 135-97 advantage in the previous match-ups. Duke has won 28 of the last 33 meetings and six of nine at the RBC Center. However, the Wolfpack won big in last year's meeting in Raleigh, winning 88-74. The teams have split the last six match-ups at the RBC Center.

The Blue Devils enter the game ranked in the top five. Under Lowe, NC State has won just nine of 30 games, but have posted a respectable 5-7 record against ranked foes at home. The higher ranked the opponent, the better for Lowe as his teams have won 3 of seven contests against teams ranked in the top 10.

In last year's game the Wolfpack got a big game from Tracy Smith (23 points) and Dennis Horner (20) as State took the lead midway through the first half and never trailed again. The Pack would lead by nearly 20 in the second half and shot an amazing 58.2 percent for the game including 64 percent in the first half. All five starters scored in double figures for NC State.

NC State Roster: Click Here
NC State Statistics: Click Here
NC State Schedule: Click Here


PRE-GAME NOTES:

"This is a big game for a number of reasons. You don't want to fall to 1-3, you could beat a quality team and it would be a boost for a young team like this. Once you experience a good win, confidence, belief, trust and all that stuff can come into play. It's not going to make our season and it certainly won't break our season, but it would certainly help a great deal if we can come out and win this game." - Sidney Lowe

"I don't think he has [a weakness], I really don't. I think he's tough physically, he's tough mentally, he can shoot the ball, he can penetrate, he can pass the ball, he can defend and he can rebound."- Lowe on Duke's Nolan Smith

Season To Date: The Wolfpack enter Wednesday night's game sitting at 11-6 on the season and 1-2 in the ACC while on their second two game losing streak of the season. The first came with a loss to then #8 Syracuse in early December followed by a 39 points debacle against Wisconsin in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. From there the Pack won seven of eight, losing only to Arizona on December 19th. However two straight ACC road games knocked Lowe's team back with a 9 point loss to Boston College on the 11th of January followed by a 13 point loss to Florida State last weekend in a game that was never in doubt. The Pack ended the game against the Seminoles on a 14-5 run after Florida State took a 79-57 lead.

Smith Is Back: Duke knows all about Tracy Smith. The senior power forward scored 23 points while hitting 10-of-12 shots from the field in last year's win over Duke. But for a while it seemed as though the talented senior's status was in doubt after early season knee surgery forced him to sit out 10 games from mid-November through January 1. In the five games since returning, however, Smith seems to be no worse for wear. He's averaging 18.2 points while shooting 60 percent from the field in those games.

Much like Maryland's Jordan Williams, Duke will have to game plan to try and limit Smith's impact on the game. It's a tall order for a team that has struggled to find a defensive identity in the paint all season.

"He's had great games against us," said Blue Devils coach Mike Kryzewski of Smith. "He's a heck of a competitor and true competitors do better in what they call bigger games."

The Other Trio: Duke fans know all about their freshman trio of Kyrie Irving, Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston. However, State's three new comers are actually playing a much bigger role for the Wolfpack in 2011. Especially with Kyrie Irving out indefinitely.

With Irving not around to collect weekly ACC Rookie of the Week awards, the Pack's C.J. Leslie has been able to capitalize by winning the award once a month. Most recently, Leslie won the award on January 10, after he averaged 19.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, and shot 65 percent from the floor (13-of-20) as the Wolfpack downed Elon and Wake Forest. Over the last 11 games the former McDonalds All-American has averaged 12.4 points and 9.9 rebounds while recording three double-doubles.

Joining Leslie are point guard Ryan Harrow and scoring guard Lorenzo Brown. Harrow has moved into the starting lineup along with Brown and Leslie to complete their transformation to big time college hoops. The three newcomers are combining to score 43.3 percent of the team's points. Additionally Harrow is averaging 3.4 assists per game while Brown is connecting for 9.5 points per night on 44 percent from the field.

'Pack It In?: With Smith and Leslie and others controlling the paint and commanding the ball inside the arc, some teams have found it makes sense to sit in a zone and force Lowe's team to beat you with jump shots and long distance shooting. So far that's not a terrible strategy as NC State hasn't been able to find the range from the outside thus far. Through 17 games the team is shooting just 34.5 percent from the perimeter while averaging 14 attempts from behind the arc per contest. The entire perimeter attack hasn't been futile as Scott Wood has hit 43 percent of his attempts (46-of-107), but aside from Wood the rest of the team hits just 34-of-125 or 27.2 percent.

While that may be good news for teams, it could be a false source of confidence for the Blue Devils who love to shoot the perimeter jumper. However, teams are hitting just 31 percent from the perimeter against the Wolfpack this season thanks to tough defense and a stable of long, athletic defenders challenging shots.

Duke Noteables: The Blue Devils will be looking to move to 17-1 (4-1ACC) on the season against North Carolina State, but there are some additional notes worth following:

  • Mike Krzyzewski continues to inch closer and closer to his coaching mentor, Bobby Knight on the list of all-time winningest coaches. Krzyzewski enters the game with 884 career victories.
  • Duke has collected 40 or more rebounds in three of the last four games. The Blue Devils are averaging 40.8 rebounds in five January games.
  • The Blue Devils rank fourth in the NCAA in scoring at 85.5 points per game. Duke is 16-0 on the year when scoring 70 or more points in a game.
  • In conference play, senior Nolan Smith leads the ACC in scoring (23.5 ppg.), assists (6.0 apg.), steals (2.5 spg.) and minutes played (39.8 mpg.). He also ranks second in free throw percentage (.963) and tied for ninth in three-point field goals (2.0 3pg.).
  • Senior Kyle Singler has scored in double figures in 52 of his last 57 games. He is tied for sixth at Duke with 111 career double-figure scoring games.
  • Sophomore Mason Plumlee has raised his rebound average by 5.4 rebounds per game from a year ago. He ranks fourth in the ACC at 8.5 rpg. Plumlee ranks second in league play at 11.5 rpg, including an ACC-high 8.3 defensive rebounds per game.
  • • Krzyzewski recorded his 800th career coaching victory with an 87-86 win over N.C. State at the RBC Center on March 1, 2008. For his career, Coach K is 44-20 against NC State.


WHAT TO WATCH FOR

A season ago Duke came out and was beaten soundly by an inspired NC State team. It was the worst loss of the season for the Blue Devils. Those memories are sure to be fresh in the team's mind today. That being said it'll take more than motivation to deal with a new-look State team. The Wolfpack have a number of capable bodies inside while Duke has struggled to defend the paint and have suffered major foul problems against the more talented post opponents. If Duke can't figure a way to neutralize State's inside game it could be another long night in Raleigh as the Wolfpack faithful are desperate for season changing victory (and it wouldn't hurt Lowe's job security to beat Duke for a second straight season). For Duke to win it will be imperative to get a scoring punch from someone outside of Smith and Singler. That will mean production from Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry, and even Miles Plumlee. Without at least two of those players upping their games it could be a long night in Raleigh.

Prediction:
Duke - 77
NC State - 72


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