For the second straight season, NC State opens its ACC slate with a familiar in-state foe, as the Wolfpack will host Wake Forest on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the conference opener for both squads.
The Pack (10-4) has been on a roll since coming back from the holiday break, winning its three games by an average of 22.7 points. NC State also currently stands at 7-1 at home, and will be opening up ACC play at home for the first time since 2005-06.
The Demon Deacons (7-8) snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating High Point on Wednesday, 79-63. Wake is 1-3 away from Winston-Salem, defeating Elon at the Greensboro Coliseum in late November.
This game will be televised on the ACC Network with Tim Brando and Mike Gminiski.
The Series Versus Wake Forest
The NC State-Wake Forest rivalry is the oldest series for the Wolfpack, dating back to the 1910-11 season. The two squads have faced each other a total of 231 times, and NC State leads the overall series 132-99.
The Pack holds a 93-53 advantage in games played in Raleigh, and also holds a 14-8 edge when the two teams have faced off on a neutral court. Wake Forest has emerged victorious 38 times in the 63 games played in Winston-Salem (38-25).
NC State has won 10 of the last 17 games against Wake, including the last five games played in Raleigh. NC State is 7-4 all-time against Wake Forest at the RBC Center.
Under Sidney Lowe, the Pack posts a 5-3 record against Wake. NC State swept the season series in Lowe's first season, and each team has won on its home court each of the last three seasons. This season also marks the second straight year the two teams are opening up conference play against each other.
Pack in ACC Openers
NC State posts a 31-26 record all-time in ACC openers, including a mark of 17-8 when opening conference play at home. This season marks the first time under Sidney Lowe that NC State will open conference play at home, as the Pack has been on the road in the last four ACC openers.
In Lowe's first season, the Pack fell at No. 25 Virginia, 67-62, then opened up at No. 1 North Carolina in 2008, losing 93-62, and lost at No. 12 Clemson, 63-51, in 2009. Last season in a December contest, the Pack fell at Wake Forest, 67-59.
Last Season Versus Wake Forest
For the third straight season, each school won on their home court in splitting the season series a year ago.
NC State opened ACC play on the road for the fourth straight season, with the Wolfpack falling at Wake Forest, 67-59, on December 20. Wake Forest shot 51.7 percent in the first half to take a 35-26 lead into the half. The Pack would cut that lead to four points at 42-38 with 14:31 left, but Wake went on a 6-0 run and never had a lead under seven points the rest of the game. Javier Gonzalez had a team-high 18 points to go with eight rebounds, and Tracy Smith had his fifth double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds despite playing only 23 minutes because of foul trouble.
Five Wolfpack players finished in double figures, as NC State defeated its third ranked opponent of the season, downing No. 23 Wake Forest 68-54 at the RBC Center on February 20. Up 28-18 at the half, NC State shot 52.2 percent in the second half, including 5-of-7 from three-point range. NC State held Wake to 34.8 percent overall shooting from the field and forced 23 turnovers. Wake went 0-of-12 from three-point range, the first time a Pack opponent has failed to hit at least one 3-pointer in 633 consecutive games, dating back to a Jan. 27, 1990 contest against Maryland. Tracy Smith led the Pack with 14 points, while Denis Horner had his second straight double-double, 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Last Time Out for NC State
NC State opened the second half with an 11-3 run, and over- came a four point halftime deficit to down Elon, 87-72, at the Greensboro Coliseum in its final non-conference game Wednesday night. Elon hit five of its first seven three-pointers, and built two different 10-point leads in the first half. In the second half, NC State got nine points from Tracy Smith and 11 from Scott Wood, including three three-pointers in a three minute span. The Pack shot 62.5 percent (30-48) from the floor for the game, as five NC State players reached double figures: C.J. Leslie (19), Ryan Harrow (18), Smith (15), Wood (13), and Richard Howell (10).
Senior Tracy Smith missed 10 games after undergoing knee surgery in mid-November, but finally made his return in the win over San Diego on January 1. In his two games back from injury, Smith has averaged 15.5 points, shooting 57.9 percent (11-19) in 26.0 minutes of action in wins over San Diego and Elon.
In his first game back against San Diego, Smith started on the bench, and checked into the contest at the 15:10 mark. On his very first touch, Smith converted his first field goal attempt in nearly six weeks. He finished the contest with a game-high 16 points (7-of- 12 shooting) and played 25 minutes. Smith then returned to the starting lineup at Elon on January 5, and scored 15 points, with nine coming in the second half after the Pack was down at the break.
After playing only six minutes against East Carolina in the Charleston Classic on Nov. 18, Smith returned to Raleigh to get an evaluation on his knee. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Nov. 19. The joint was debrided and no major damage was found. He played a total of just 34 minutes in the first two games of the season before missing nearly six weeks of action.
Smith Closing in on Milestones
With the return of senior Tracy Smith, the Pack's leading scorer and rebounder from last season is on the verge of a few career mile- stones. Smith is just 10 points away from be- coming the 44th player in NC State history to score 1,000 career points.
He is also 60 rebounds from 500 for his career. He would become the 25th player in school history to reach 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds.
Hot After the Break
Coming back from a short holiday break, NC State has been impressive in its three games thus far, winning by an average of 22.7 points. NC State started with an 82-51 win over Alabama A&M on December 28, then downed San Diego, 76-54, on New Year's Day, and won at Elon on January 5, 87-72.
NC State has shot over 50.0 percent in all three games, the most consecutive games it has done so since late in the 2008-09 season.
In those three games, the Pack shot 56.9 percent (91-160) from the floor, while holding its two opponents to just 33.5 percent (61-182).
Harrow the Scorer
Despite not starting a game this season, freshman guard Ryan Harrow is currently tied for the lead on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game. Over his last seven games, Harrow is averaging 13.1 points, including a season- best 20 against USC Upstate. Harrow did not break double figures in any of the four games prior to this stretch, and averaged 6.3 points a game.
He is also taking advantage from the free throw line. Harrow currently leads the ACC in free throw percentage, as he has hit 93.6 percent (44-47) of his attempts this season. He has hit his last 20 free throw attempts.
On the season, NC State is a perfect 8-0 when Harrow scores in double figures.
Almost Time to Re-Pack the Bags
The Wake Forest game will be the Pack's last home contest before ACC road play starts. After playing five of its first seven games away from Raleigh to start the season, the Wolfpack returned home for a six- game homestand. NC State will not leave the state of North Carolina until a Jan. 11 trip to Boston College, the first ACC road contest of the season.
The Pack went 5-1 during its homestand. First was a 79-60 win over USC Upstate in Reynolds Coliseum, followed by a come-from-behind 67-50 win over Youngstown State. The Pack then fell to Arizona, 72-62, and came away with a 72- 70 win over Delaware State on December 22. After a short holiday break, the Pack downed Alabama A&M last Tuesday, 82-51, and then San Diego on New Year's Day, 76- 54.
The Pack started the season at home against Tennessee Tech, then played three games in four days at the Charleston Classic. After returning home to play Fairleigh Dickinson, the Pack had back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Syracuse.
Taking Care of the Rebounds
NC State is one of only two ACC schools that currently has a pair of players ranked in the top-10 in the conference standings in rebounding (North Carolina).
C.J. Leslie is sixth in the ACC, pulling down 8.0 rebounds a game, while Richard Howell currently ranks 10th with 6.7 boards an outing.
As a team, NC State currently ranks fifth in the ACC with a rebound margin of +3.4. Last season, NC State finished last in the ACC in that category, at -0.6 per game.