Before the season, NC State's coaching staff put an emphasis on defensive improvement. The work has shown in recent games. The Wolfpack held Northwestern to just 49 points on .250 shooting on Dec. 4. It was the lowest shooting percentage for a Pack opponent since it held NC Central to .203 shooting in January 2008.
FINISH THE CALENDAR YEAR STRONG
NC State will enter Tennessee's Boling-Thompson Arena with a five-game win streak, including a 3-0 mark in December. Dating back to 2004, NC State is 49-17 (.742) during the 12th month of the calendar year. Mark Gottfried boasts a 12-2 ledger in December at NC State, with the only two losses to Stanford and Syracuse in 2011. NC State claimed December victories over Connecticut and Stanford in 2012, and has already defeated Northwestern this month.
T.J. GETTING HISTORICAL BUCKETS
T.J. Warren scored 30 points against both Florida Gulf Coast and Eastern Kentucky, becoming the first NC State player to post consecutive 30-point performances since Rodney Monroe in 1991. He then followed those performances with 22 points and eight rebounds against Northwestern on Dec. 4. His 82 points over those games was the most during a three-game span since Tom Gugliotta scored 83 during the first three contests of the 1991-92 season.
#TONYBUCKETS GETS GOING
T.J. Warren has seven outings with 22 points or more already this season, and most of that damage has come in the second halves of games.
PACK GOES LIKE T.J. GOES
There's little doubt NC State needs production from its 6-8 standout sophomore forward T.J. Warren, who is 6th in the country with 23.3 points per game. The Wolfpack is 25-8 when Warren scores in double figures and 12-2 when he leads the team in scoring.
GOTT HAD UT ON TV
In his two seasons as an analyst for ESPN, Mark Gottfried mainly worked games involving SEC schools. He called a Tennessee contest eight times, with UT going 5-3 in those games.
One area where NC State has thrived this season has been in the turnover department. NC State averages just 10.0 turnovers per game, third-lowest mark in the ACC. The Wolfpack has posted three outings with less than 10 turnovers and has committed more turnovers than its opponent just once this season. NC State currently stands fourth in the ACC in turnover margin.
NC STATE FOR 2
Just one team in America scores a higher percentage of its points on made 2-point field goals than NC State. The Wolfpack ranks second in the nation with 64.7 percent 2-point scoring distribution. Further, NC State is 13th in the nation with a .563 shooting percentage on its attempts from inside the arc.
Fifth-year senior Jordan Vandenberg sustained a Grade 3 high ankle sprain during the team's exhibition vs. UNC Pembroke on Oct. 30, but has rebounded to play the best basketball of his career. The 7-1 Australia native is averaging 8.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He entered the season with career averages of 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.
It didn't take long for Anthony ‘Cat' Barber to become an impact player at the college level. The freshman scored 22 points in just his fourth college game and has six games with double-digit scoring. Barber, who is averaging 12.0 points per game on .488 shooting, scored 19 points vs. Long Beach State on Dec. 7.
PACK VS. TENNESSEE, SEC
In a series that dates back to 1928, NC State is 5-3 all-time against Tennesse. The two schools haven't played since 1994. NC State is 86-60 all-time vs. the current membership of the SEC.
Mark Gottfried specifically set out to challenge his young team when he built the 2013-14 schedule. In all, NC State will play 20 games against 18 different teams that competed in a postseason tournament in 2013 (9 in the 2013 NCAA Tournament).
In the season's first four games, the Wolfpack played a smaller, quicker lineup. As a result, the Pack found itself with a -0.8 rebound margin, ranking 14th in the ACC. Adding Jordan Vandenberg has reversed that trend. NCSU boasts a +9.0 rebounding margin over the last five games.
Since shooting 2-for-12 at the foul line against Campbell on Nov. 16, NC State has improved to shoot .713 at the foul line over the last six games. The improvement has been led by T.J. Warren, who is shooting .842 at the foul line. After starting the year 5-for-11 at the line, he made 12 of his 12 tries against FGCU and EKU. He then shot 6-for-7 at the stripe vs. Northwestern.
NC State's first six wins this season each came by at least 10 points, a streak that was broken in the 82-79 win over Detroit. It marked the first time since the 1998-99 season State had its first six wins of a season each come by double figures. In that 1998-99 campaign, the Pack saw its first eight wins each come by 15 points or more. That team finished the season with a 19-14 record.
BASKET IS HALF FULL
NC State has held each of its opponents this season to worse than 50 percent shooting from the floor.
Conversely, NC State has shot 50 percent or better six times this season and has won each time. That includes a .619 shooting night in the season opener vs. Appalachian State. Dating back to the beginning of last season, NC State is 20-5 in games when shooting at least 50 percent. The last team to shoot 50 percent or better against NC State was No. 9 Miami in the semifinal of the ACC tourney last March.
‘DEZ' FOR 2 AT THE 2
Desmond Lee is another top scoring option for NC State, averaging 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Lee, who scored 24 points in the season opener vs. Appalachian State, is 28-for-46 on his 2-point attempts this season. He finished with 15 points last week vs. Long Beach State, pulling out of a mini-slump that had seen him average 7.0 points on .333 shooting. Lee was the 10th-ranked junior college prospect last season, averaging 20.3 points per game at New Mexico Junior College.
GOOD WORKS TEAM
Tyler Lewis was one of 201 men's and women's basketball student-athletes nominated for the Allstate Insurance Good Works Team. The award recognizes a select group of student-athletes who have made significant contributions to the greater good through leadership and service.
RALSTON AROUND THE ARC
Ralston Turner, who made 95 shots from 3-point range during his two seasons at LSU, leads NC State with 17 made 3-pointers. Turner, who started the first four games of the season, came off the bench to score a season-high 21 points in the win over Detroit. He shot 6-for-8 from 3-point range and made his final five attempts on the night. He buried three treys against Northwestern for 13 points and made 4-for-7 from 3-point land in NC State's game at Cincinnati.