TSX: Pack Playing Smarter

Maybe North Carolina State learned something after back-to-back losses to Maryland and North Carolina.

"We played smarter today," coach Sidney Lowe said after the Wolfpack got a much-needed victory Feb. 26 over Georgia Tech. "We still made some mistakes, but I thought we were much better and that's what I told them after the game.

"We gave good effort, we controlled the tempo, ran the clock down when we needed to, and we didn't force shots at the end of the game."

But did this sudden burst of intelligent play come too late to save the Wolfpack's season?

The win boosted the 'Pack's ACC record to 5-9, good for a tie for eighth place with Miami and Virginia, both of whom lost the same day.

The 'Pack has only two games left in the regular season -- the next one on the road at Virginia -- and the best conference finish possible is only 7-9, which would mean a fifth consecutive losing season in the ACC for the 'Pack, all under Lowe's watch.

With a 15-13 overall record, the 'Pack will need a big finish to get even NIT consideration.

After the trip to Virginia, the 'Pack's lone regular-season game is at home against Florida State.

Then comes the ACC tourney with a matchup against either Miami or Virginia a strong possibility.

-- Getting the ball in the hands of senior F Tracy Smith is a big key for North Carolina State. Smith was 8-for-10 from the field and scored 18 points in the win Feb. 26 over Georgia Tech, his 15th time in double figures in 16 games since returning from knee surgery.

-- After going 37-for-43 from the free-throw line in the previous two games against Maryland and North Carolina, North Carolina State was back to its normal high 60s against Georgia Tech, going 17-of-25 (68.0 percent) from the stripe.

-- Freshman G Ryan Harrow has struggled since coming back from an illness that benched him for games against North Carolina on Jan. 29 and Virginia Tech on Feb. 2. He had 10 points in the win Feb. 26 over Georgia Tech, but six of the points came at the free-throw line, where he had a rare two misses. He is averaging only 5.7 ppg over his last six games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9-1 -- N.C. State's record against Gerogia Tech in the RBC Center after a 79-74 victory on Feb. 26.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's what Tracy does. He's an automatic scorer." -- Freshman G Lorenzo Brown, to the Raleigh News & Observer, after senior F Tracy Smith came up with three key baskets late in the win over Georgia Tech.

--at Virginia, March 1
With F Mike Scott out of Virginia's lineup, F Tracy Smith and F C.J. Leslie give the Wolfpack a big advantage up front. But Sammy Zeglinski and Joe Harris are two of the top 3-point shooters in the league, and another guard, Mustapha Farrakhan, is a double-digit point producer.

--vs. Florida State, March 6
FSU will be without F Chris Singleton, but Singleton didn't have a big impact in the first game, settling for 11 points and five rebounds in the Seminoles' 13-point in Tallahassee. F Bernard James (16 points, seven boards, four steals), G Michael Snaer (13 points), and F Terrance Shannon (12 points, nine rebounds) led that FSU win.

FUTURES MARKET: With sophomore F Richard Howell recovering from a concussion, sophomore F Jordan Vandenberg saw increased playing time against North Carolina and Georgia Tech. He scored a career-high eight points and had three rebounds against the Yellow Jackets on Feb. 2. "We have worked with Jordan to help him earn more playing time,." coach Sidney Lowe said. "He's done a great job every time we have put him in there."

-- Sophomore F Richard Howell returned to play against Georgia Tech after sitting out the previous game against North Carolina with a concussion. In 24 minutes against the Yellow Jackets, he scored only three points but had seven rebounds, a team-high, and three steals.

-- Freshman F C.J. Leslie ended a streak of superlative efforts with subpar production against Georgia Tech. He went into the game averaging 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds over the previous six games but settled for three points and two rebounds in 20 minutes against the Jackets.

-- Sophomore G Scott Wood scored a season-high 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting (2-for-5 on threes) against the Jackets.

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