"Every game you play, especially when you're not a dominant team, every game is huge," Gottfried said.
The Wolfpack completed a series sweep of Boston College with Wednesday night's 56-51 road victory. The teams met twice in less than a two-week period.
The game against Boston College was the Wolfpack's first rematch of the season and that went well for N.C. State.
The outing against Wake Forest will be the middle game of a three-game stretch against teams in the bottom four spots in the ACC standings. But N.C. State needs to make good on this stretch because its next three games come against the teams currently in the top three positions in the standings.
"We have to take the schedule and treat every game with the absolute utmost importance," Gottfried said.
TRENDING: The Wolfpack has fallen into a stretch when its reserves are receiving little playing time beyond senior G Alex Johnson and junior F DeShawn Painter. This situation could catch up to the Wolfpack if an injury were to occur that derails one of the primary players for any length of time. With several games tight until the end, there hasn't been much of an opportunity for coach Mark Gottfried to experiment with different combinations.
But going with a seven-player rotation might be troublesome in the long run for the Wolfpack, which could find openings to dig a little deeper on its bench if the primary players could build comfortable leads against some of the ACC's struggling teams. That didn't happen against Boston College, and only seven players were used Wednesday night.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Wake Forest, Feb. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolfpack ripped the Demon Deacons in the first matchup, largely because of work at the defensive end. The 36-point victory might be difficult to duplicate, but using athleticism of F C.J. Leslie and F Richard Howell in the interior should keep the Wolfpack in a good spot against Wake Forest post players C Ty Walker and C Carson Desrosiers.
FUTURES MARKET: The Wolfpack will need to upset a nationally ranked opponent in order to reach coach Mark Gottfried's pre-determined goal of 11 ACC victories, which he said would put N.C. State in the NCAA Tournament field. Through seven ACC games, the Wolfpack was 4-3 in the conference. So, for instance, unless the Wolfpack upsets neighbor North Carolina in a rematch or wins at Duke, N.C. State must win its other remaining ACC games in order to reach that 11-win goal. In that situation, it would require winning at Georgia Tech, which topped the Wolfpack in Raleigh, and conquering Florida State.
-- Junior F Richard Howell ended his streak of fouling out when he lasted until the end Wednesday night at Boston College. He fouled out of the previous three games after fouling out only twice in his career until that stretch. "It's something we talk to Richard about continually," coach Mark Gottfried said, knowing that the ACC's second-leading rebounder is prone to fouls. "He has got to stay aggressive but at the same time eliminate the fouls that are inconsequential."
-- Junior G Scott Wood, a junior whose consecutive free throws set an ACC record, had gone the past two games without making it to the free-throw line until he went 5-for-5 at Boston College. The 63 in a row rank among the top 10 streaks in NCAA Division I history. In the previous game, N.C. State took 21 free throws in the loss to Virginia, but only three N.C. State players attempted foul shots in the game.