Duke (17-1, 5-0) vs Virginia Tech (13-6, 2-3)
Durham, N.C. - Cameron Indoor Stadium
TV: ESPN / Tip: 9:00 PM ESPN2
Program Vitals Conference: Atlantic Coast Nickname: Wolfpack Colors: Red & White Head Coach: Sidney Lowe (2nd year) Career Record at N.C. State: 33-22 (33-22 Overall)
Projected Starters: 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, 210, Sr.) – 13.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.1 apg 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, 205, Jr.) – 11.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg 1 J.J. Hickson (6-9, 245, Fr.) – 15.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, 2400, So.) – 9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg 13 Marques Johnson (6-5, 205, So.) – 2.0 ppg, 2.2 apg Key Reserves: 34 Ben McCauley (6-10, 240, Jr.) – 5.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg 31 Dennis Horner (6-8, 220, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg 10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 175, Fr.) – 2.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg 15 Trevor Ferguson (6-5, 185, Fr.) - 1.0 ppg
How They Got Here:
The Blue Devils enter Thursday night's game with the Wolfpack sitting alone atop the ACC standings at a perfect 5-0 mark. The latest victory came in College Park where Duke rallied from a nine point halftime deficit to win 93-84 over the Maryland Terrapins. Standing at 17-1 overall, the Blue Devils enjoy a national No. 3 ranking in both the AP and ESPN Coaches Poll.
On the other hand the Wolfpack enter the game looking to live up to their preseason hype - most notably when media members tagged Coach Lowe's team as the third best in the ACC behind favorite North Carolina and Duke. Unexplainable losses to New Orleans and East Carolina served as warning signs that ACC play could be another roller coaster ride for those in Raleigh before rival North Carolina shellacked the Pack by 31 in the conference opener. Since that time NC State has lost to Clemson and Georgia Tech while beating Miami and Florida State. Each of the team's last three games have been decided by three points or less.
The Blue Devils and Blue Devils have met 228 times before with Duke holding a 132-96 series advantage. Last year in the ACC Tournament's first round, the Wolfpack used a big game from now departed Engin Astur to beat Duke 85-80. However, Duke has won 10 conseuctive games played at Cameron in the series. And hold a 43-23 overall advantage in games played at Duke.
Duke center Brian Zoubek will not play against the Wolfpack. The 7'1 sophomore is listed as questionable for the game against Miami on Saturday.
The Engin Is Gone; Lowe Must Adjust:
Last season the Wolfpack relied heavily on the versatile Astur to handle the ball and run the offense. With Astur now gone, the Pack have turned to a pair of guards (Marques Johnson & Javier Gonzalez) that are learning how to play at the highest levels in a trial by fire. Neither player has proven to be much of a scoring threat, and both have been solid, but there have been patches of trouble - the duo is averaging a combined total of 3.6 turnovers per contest in ACC play while dishing a combined 19 assists against 18 turnovers. Against Duke they will likely face the most defensive pressure they've seen this season as the Blue Devils enter Thursday night forcing nearly 20 turnovers per game.
A Contrast of Styles:
Last season neither team was comfortable engaging in a high scoring affair. That couldn't be more different this season as the Blue Devils are averaging nearly 85 points per game, and 22.9 attempts from three point range. On the other end of the spectrum is the Pack, who prefer to run a half court offense and are more comfortable with scores in the high 60s to low 70s.
Sixth Man Will Be Big For Duke:
Thanks to the wonders of ACC expansion, one of the conference's oldest and most storied rivalries has been placed on an infrequent schedule. No longer are State and Duke promised a home and home series with one another - which means the Wolfpack enter Thursday with just one player, senior Gavin Grant, having experienced the raucous atmosphere of an ACC game at Cameron Indoor. It's something coach Lowe is somewhat concerned about with such a young team.
"Hopefully Gavin can shed some light on what they can expect. We can't get too wrapped up in the fans; they're there and are going to be loud," said Lowe. "They support their team and know that they're important. They try to get in the heads of the other teams and a lot of times they do that. Our guys really have to block that stuff out and really concentrate on our game and show some poise while we're over there."
Hickson Living Up To The Hype
Freshman big man J.J. Hickson was among the most decorated freshmen to enter the ACC this season. The 6'9 Georgia native has been as good as advertised through the midway point, averaging a team high in points (15.3) and rebounding (8.0) while leading the conference in field goal shooting percentage at 63.2 percent.
Coach K continues assault on wins list
Duke's victory over Maryland was Krzyzewski's 792nd, good enough for sixth on the all-time list. Eddie Sutton is fifth overall and second among active coaches with 798 wins while first overall is Coach K's college coach, Bob Knight, with 901 wins. Coach K now has 719 wins at Duke, tied for seventh all-time for most wins at one school and third among active coaches. With 792 career wins in his first 33 seasons, Coach K is currently second on the NCAA's list of most victories in a coaches' first 33 season. He trails Dean Smith, who had 802 wins through 33 seasons.
NC State 65