Hitting The Home Stretch

North Carolina State avoided the embarrassment of falling into last place in the ACC with its 80-55 romp past Wake Forest on Feb. 13.

The issue now is how high the Wolfpack can go in the conference standings.

Picked to finish fourth in the league before the season, the 'Pack isn't likely to climb that high.

But with four home contests remaining in its last six games, the 'Pack could move into the top six if things fall right.

Only three teams in the conference (Duke, North Carolina, Florida State) had as few as three league losses through Feb. 13. Fourth-place Virginia Tech had four league losses. All the rest, including those immediately ahead of the 'Pack, had at least five defeats.

Moreover, three of the next four games for the 'Pack, starting with a rematch with Clemson, are at home.

After a trip to Maryland, the 'Pack is back home against North Carolina and Georgia Tech to finish the month.

-- The Feb. 13 win at Wake Forest gave North Carolina State its first road victory in conference play after five losses. Three of those defeats had come in the previous four games (Clemson, North Carolina, and Duke). The Wolfpack also had lost its only home game in that stretch (Virginia Tech), and thus it snapped a four-game losing streak with the win over the Demon Deacons.

-- The Wolfpack never trailed in sweeping the two-games series with the Deacons. The 'Pack got off to a 6-0 lead in the first meeting at Raleigh and had a 8-0 start in the rematch at Winston-Salem. The 25-point margin of victory in the second meeting was the Pack's third largest road win ever in conference play.

-- Senior F Tracy Smith had eight rebounds against Wake Forest, raising his career total to 502. Smith scored 20 points, giving him 1,145 for his career through Feb. 13. He is the 25th player in N.C. State history with more than 1,000 points and 500 career rebounds.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7-3 -- The Wolfpack's record under coach Sidney Lowe against Wake Forest following the season sweep.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's our future, and if they're going to get the experience, I thought it'd be a great opportunity to start them in this game." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, on starting three freshmen -- F C.J. Leslie, G Ryan Harrow and G Lorenzo Brown -- against Wake Forest.

--vs. Clemson, Feb. 17
Clemson won the first meeting by 10 points, holding the Wolfpack to just 50 points. F Jerai Grant had a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) and G Demontez Stitt had 17 points for the Tigers.

--at Maryland, Feb. 20
Maryland has one of the premier low-post players in sophomore F Jordan Williams (17.1 ppg, 11.8 rpg through Feb. 12). G/F Cliff Tucker is a threat from 3-point range.

FUTURES MARKET: Coach Sidney Lowe welcomed back freshman F C.J. Leslie from suspension in the Wolfpack's Feb. 13 game at Wake Forest. Leslie scored 19 points and snatched eight rebounds in 29 minutes against the Demon Deacons. With freshman G Ryan Harrow returning against Duke in the previous game after missing two games because of illness, Lowe had his entire roster available for the first time this month.

-- Freshman G Ryan Harrow missed a free throw against Wake Forest, which is a rare occurrence. That made him 36-for-38 (94.7 percent) in conference play from the stripe through Feb. 13.

-- Sophomore G Scott Wood was only 1-for-3 from behind the arc Feb. 13, but that gave him at least one 3-pointer in 23 of 24 games this season.

-- Freshman G Lorenzo Brown had seven assists against Wake Forest to match his season high. He had 23 assists against only seven turnovers the last four games through Feb. 13.

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