Backcourt 'D' The Key

The Wolfpack has displayed the ability to crack down defensively after it's been challenged in that area. That could become magnified in Sunday's game at Miami.

The Hurricanes have guards who can make things happen against just about any opponent, and that means North Carolina State must pay attention to details on defense.

"Where we have been weak at times is containing really good scorers on the perimeter," coach Mark Gottfried said. "We haven't done that very well at times."

The seed for playing better defensively definitely has been planted with the Wolfpack, which showed it could get the job done against Wake Forest and continued that trend Thursday against Boston College, which managed only 28 first-half points. N.C. State won 76-62, leading by as many as 24 points.

Miami has more backcourt scoring power than both of those opponents, so there's no chance for the Wolfpack to back off. "I have to keep defending better," guard C.J. Williams said. "We have to keep defending better, flat out."

There's some concern regarding Williams' condition after he left the Boston College game with an injured right shoulder that will require further evaluation by the weekend.

ON THE SPOT: Teams will be attempting to disrupt G Lorenzo Brown, who has shown the ability to be a playmaker in his first full season as a point guard. How he reacts to various tactics is bound to determine how efficiently the Wolfpack operates. He also has shown the ability to be the team's top scorer in some games, so that combination could bode well for N.C. State.

The key for Brown will be maintaining his focus on running the team -- as he did while dishing out 11 assists Thursday night against Boston College -- and not becoming sidetracked with being a primary scorer unless that opportunity arises without forcing the issue.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Scoreless games in F C.J. Leslie's two-season career with the Wolfpack after he was shut out at Wake Forest.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This year I've had a chance to play (point guard) and I'm doing pretty well." -- G Lorenzo Brown, whose 20 points against Wake Forest matched the sophomore's career-high in an ACC game that he set last January against North Carolina.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Miami, Jan. 22
KEY MATCHUPS:
The Wolfpack will be challenged to deal with Miami's guards, particularly G Malcolm Grant, and there's also the matter of dealing with the bulk of Miami C Reggie Johnson. This will be the first trip out of the state of North Carolina in more than a month for the Wolfpack and they came back with losses in the last two out-of-state ventures.

FUTURES MARKET: The Wolfpack was receiving continued strong play from senior G C.J. Williams and it extended to both ends of the court. He had been a streaky offensive player with some solid defensive skills. His emergence at the offensive end is one of the biggest breakthroughs for the Wolfpack, which should be more difficult to defend with Williams as a serious scoring option. He's playing with the urgency that often is associated with a senior in a final go-around and that should bode well for the Wolfpack.

PLAYER NOTES
-- Junior G Scott Wood has made all his 41 of his free throws this season and 51 in a row across three seasons, leaving him three shy of former Duke player J.J. Redick's ACC record. However, Wood didn't go to the free-throw line Thursday night against Boston College despite playing a game-high 36 minutes. In fact, the Wolfpack attempted only 10 foul shots.

-- Sophomore F C.J. Leslie was back in the starting lineup Thursday after a one-game disciplinary measure put him in a reserve role at Wake Forest. Leslie's misdeed was undisclosed publicly, but coach Mark Gottfried said he told Leslie that his punishment had been served. "We're right back to normal," Gottfried said in dismissing any lingering impact of the issue.


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