Preview: Duke (15-2) v. NC State (12-6)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Wolfpack who will tip off tonight at 9:00 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. The game will be broadcast by Raycom.


Duke (15-2) vs NC State (12-6)
Raleigh, N.C. - RBC Center
TV: Raycom / Tip: 9:00 PM EST

Program Vitals
Conference:  ACC
Nickname:  Wolfpack
Colors: Red & White 
Head Coach: Sidney Lowe (4th season)
Career Record at North Carolina State: 63-52 

Projected Starters:
10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 175, Jr.) – 9.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 apg
12 Farnold Degand (6-4, 170, Sr.) – 6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg
23 Tracy Smith (6-8, 250, Jr.) – 16.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg
15 Scott Wood (6-7, 170, Fr.) – 9.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg
31 Dennis Horner (6-9, 226, Sr.) - 12.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg

Key Reserves:
21 C.J. Williams (6-6, 220, So.) – 4.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg
22 Josh Davis (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 2.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg
24 Julius Mays (6-3, 185, So.) – 6.9 ppg, 2.2 apg
 5 Deshawn Painter (6-9, 215, Fr.) - 1.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg

Story Lines For NC State:

How They Got Here:
The Wolfpack enters Wednesday night's game having lost three of their last five including two of their last three conference games. Despite coming up short on the scoreboard, Coach Lowe's team has been extremely competitive. They pushed No. 19 Clemson to a three point game on Saturday in Raleigh and beat No. 25 Florida State by seven in Tallahassee last week.

On the flip side the Blue Devils are coming off a very physical contest against Wake Forest that saw the junior forward Kyle Singler banged up. Duke countered the Deacs' play with a career performance from the Plumlee brothers inside. Mason and Miles combined for 30 points and 21 rebounds to help the Blue Devils to a 90-70 victory.

Series History:
Duke owns a 135-96 advantage in the all-time series, which dates back to the 1911-1912 season. Despite being charter members of the ACC and "The Big 4", ACC expansion will dictate that this is only meeting between the two teams this season. It's the fifth time in the last six seasons such a scheduling resolution has occurred. The Blue Devils have won three straight in the series and 28 of the last 32 match-ups overall. In games played at the RBC Center Duke owns a 6-2 advantage all-time. The last time the teams played in Raleigh, NC State nearly pulled off the upset before then No.7 Duke was able to escape with an 87-86 victory.

Injury Report:
The Wolfpack have suffered a number of injuries throughout the season, but appear to be relatively healthy entering Wednesday night's game.

On the other side the Blue Devils are somewhat banged up after the game against Wake Forest. Junior forward Kyle Singler had X-rays on his left wrist following Sunday's game which were negative. However the 6'9 forward was expected to sit out practice on Monday. Similarly Mason Plumlee received minor medical attention following an intentional foul that resulted in a scary fall for the freshman. Both players are expected to play.

Another Top Opponent For Lowe's Team
The game against Duke will be the third straight game against an opponent ranked in the top 25, but the first against a team in the top 10. After avoiding ranked teams in the pre-conference schedule, the Wolfpack have posted a 1-1 record against Florida State and Clemson. In his career as head man at NC State, Sidney Lowe has posted just a 6-17 record against teams ranked in the top 25 with half of those games coming at the RBC Center (3-6).

Seeing a ranked Duke team lining up is nothing new for the Wolfpack. Wednesday's game will be the 74th time the Blue Devils will face the Wolfpack ranked in the nation's top 10. In those previous 73 games the Wolfpack have posted a 16-57 mark.

Perimeter Attacks:
The Wolfpack have been forced to attack their opponents from the outside as their interior firepower often draws the primary defensive attention of their opponents. So far the Pack has responded with an average of eight three pointers made over the last eight games. During that time NC State has hit 64-of-161 attempts from beyond the arc (39%). A good barometer for ACC games has been the number of threes made. When it's more than seven the Pack win. When it's fewer than seven, NC State has lost both conference games. What's odd is that State's perimeter shooting percentage has actually increased away from the RBC Center (42 percent away vs. 31 percent at home)

Oddly enough the Blue Devils - who are usually among the conference's best perimeter shooting teams - have won the last few games despite tremendous difficulty from behind the arc. In the four conference games the Blue Devils have shot just 17-of-71 from the arc (23 percent). Most notable in this slump has been Singler who has gone just 5-of-18 (27 percent).

A Second Half Team:
The Wolfpack have been very good coming out of halftime this season. Twice NC State has face double-figure deficits in the first half only to come back and either tie or take the lead after halftime. On the season the Wolfpack are averaging a 38 points per game in the second half against just 33 for their opponents and have out-scored their opponents in 13 of the 18 games this season.

Against Clemson, NC State was down by 16 at the half and fell behind 49-31 with just over 18 minutes remaining. From that point it was all NC State as the Wolfpack battled back for the next 17 plus minutes - cutting the Tiger lead to just 71-70 with 1:52 remaining. The comeback would have been complete, but NC State missed a couple of three pointers in the last six seconds that would have tied the game and forced overtime.

Watch Out For...
Freshman wing forward Scott Wood has been very good in his first season in Raleigh. The 6'7 combo wing earned his way into the starting five in the preseason and has remained there for much of the year. In his first four games as a member of the Pack he averaged 9.0 points per game. However a shooting slump soon took hold and limited him to just 2.8 points per night over the next five. Since that time, however, Wood has gotten back into the swing of things, knocking down 29 of his 60 perimeter attempts including 28 made threes over the last eight games. He's hit three or more perimeter shots in the last three games and had a breakout performance against the Seminoles last week when he scored a career high 31 points to help his team win.

Fearless Prediction(s)
Duke certainly has an advantage on the boards and inside. Oddly enough the Wolfpack enter the game looking like the more reliable perimeter shooting team. It will be important for the Blue Devil offense to build off the bounce and from the inside out. Look for Singler to continue his success in posting up and then facing up against his man and look for Duke to continue to look for high-lows to the Plumlees. If the Blue Devils can find the range early and get the big three of Singler, Nolan Smith, and Jon Scheyer going while not forgetting about the Plumlees inside, Duke should be able to win this game by double figures. Still, the Wolfpack are never an easy matchup and that looks to be the same on Wednesday night. In the end, barring a major continuation of the shooting slump, the Blue Devils should be able to come out with the victory.

Prediction:

Duke 81
NC State 69


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