NOTES: ACC Opener For State

NC State opens ACC play tonight at 7:30 in PNC Arena against Wake Forest. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

NC State’s 62nd ACC basketball season will begin in early December.

The Wolfpack hosts Wake Forest Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in an early league opener for both teams. Saturday’s game is the 240th meeting between the two intrastate rivals.

1. ACC Opener

Beginning its 62nd season in ACC play, NC State sports a 34-27 mark in ACC openers. The Wolfpack is 2-1 in ACC openers under Mark Gottfried, with wins at home in each of his first two seasons. NC State won 79-74 over Maryland in 2012 during Gottfried’s first season and 78-73 at Boston College two years ago.

In all, NC State has started ACC play 1-0 for three of the last four seasons.

2. ACC Play... In Early December?
Saturday night’s contest vs. Wake Forest is important in that the game’s loser will be stuck with an 0-1 ACC record for nearly a month before conference play resumes.

Each year, the ACC schedule comes out that one or a few more outlier games take place before January. The last time NC State played an ACC game in December was in 2009, also against Wake Forest. The Wolfpack also played an early ACC opener in 2006, when it traveled to Virginia in early December.

3. NC State-Wake Forest
While much is made of NC State’s rivalry with UNC Chapel Hill, the Pack has actually played against Wake Forest and Duke much more often. Saturday’s game with Wake Forest will be the 240th meeting all-time between the two schools, with NC State owning a 138-101 advantage (NC State has also played Duke 239 times).

NC State and Wake Forest are scheduled to play each other twice each year for the foreseeable future.

4. Opponents Feeling Rejected
NC State is among the national leaders in blocked shots. The Wolfpack is currently first in the ACC and 16th in the nation with 6.57 blocked shots per game.

Led by BeeJay Anya’s school-record 10 rejections, NC State recorded 14 blocked shots in a 79-43 win over Jacksonville.

The Pack also owns two games with seven blocks and a game with six swats. Anya leads the conference with 24 swats, which is also good for 10th in the nation. Only two teams (Kentucky, Texas and Washington) in Power 5 conferences have more blocked shots than NC State.

5. 3 Seasons, 3 NCAAs
Mark Gottfried, in his fourth season at NC State, will be working toward mentoring his team into the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight season.

The Wolfpack has made the Big Dance in each of his first three seasons, making Gottfried the first Pack coach and just the fourth in ACC history to achieve that feat. It marks the first time NC State had made three straight tournaments since 2004-06.

One strength for NC State is the team’s backcourt.

Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner are the team’s leading scorers, with the trio combining to score 40.3 points per game. Each player has at least one game with 23 points or more.

Barber poured in a career-high 25 points with six rebounds and six assists against Jackson State and Turner went for a career-high 24 vs. Hofstra. Lacey scored 22 points (20 in the first half) against Jackson State and led NCSU with 21 points vs. South Florida.

Barber and Lacey are also the team’s primary ballhandlers.

NC State is fifth in the ACC committing just 10.4 turnovers per contest. What’s more is that the Wolfpack ranks 17th in the nation in turnover percentage (15.5%).

That means NC State turns the ball over roughly three times in every 20 possessions. That 15.5% mark ranks second in the ACC (behind Duke’s 13.9%).

The Wolfpack is 184-68 all-time at PNC Arena. NC State went 12-6 at PNC last season and 15-1 there in the 2012-13 season. Mark Gottfried owns a 45-13 record in the arena, which is the eighth-largest in all of college basketball.

While hundreds of players transfer schools each spring in college basketball, few coaches have been able to capitalize on that better than Mark Gottfried.

His first squad at NCSU included transfer Alex Johnson (CSU Bakersfield), a key component in the team’s 2012 Sweet 16 run. Next came Ralston Turner (LSU), a double-digit scorer and starting wing player. Trevor Lacey (Alabama) is currently NC State’s on-court leader and leading scorer.

Currently sitting out is Terry Henderson (West Virginia), a long-range shooter who scored 11.7 ppg at WVU last season.

Defensively, NC State has yet to allow an individual player to score 20 points in a game yet this season. The only player to score 19 against the Pack this year is Hofstra’s Juan’ya Green.

NC State is the only team in the ACC to have yet to allow a player to score 20 points in a game.

Trevor Lacey made the three biggest plays of the game at the end of NC State’s win over Boise State. Leading 55-54, NC State went to Lacey, who drove to the basket for a lay-up at the 1:05 mark.

After a stop, Lacey buried a step-back jumper to put NC State up 59-54 with 29 seconds left. He then grabbed the game-icing defensive rebound on the next possession. He also kept NC State within striking distance at Purdue with five points in the closing minutes.

Trevor Lacey, who Mark Gottfried calls “a coach on the floor," provides leadership on and off the court for NC State.

Lacey is averaging 17.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while leading State in minutes played (33.4). Lacey opened the season with 22 points vs. Jackson State and then added a double-double (16 pts, 10 rebs) vs. Hofstra. He has led NC State in scoring with 21 points vs. USF and 26 vs. Richmond.

The Wolfpack is currently 23rd in the nation in effective FG defense (.412) and 15th in the country in blocked shots (6.57).

The Pack held its first three opponents to worse than 31 percent shooting. Jacksonville shot just .232 against the Pack, the lowest field goal percentage for an opponent since Jan. 9, 2008 vs. NC Central (.203).

NC State blocked 14 Jacksonville shots while allowing just 13 made baskets.

Kyle Washington scored a career-high 17 points in NC State’s loss at Purdue. Washington, a 6-9 sophomore, was aggressive throughout against the pair of 7-footers Purdue had inside. Washington shot 8-for-15 and pulled in nine rebounds on the night.

His previous high of 14 points came last season at Syracuse.

Lennard Freeman has quietly been one of NC State’s most productive players. Freeman ranks ninth in the ACC with 8.0 rebounds per game. He pulled in 13 rebounds vs. Hofstra, had a double-double vs.Jacksonville (10 pts, 12 rebs) and then grabbed 10 boards against USF.

Trevor Lacey is almost always on the court for NC State, averaging 33.4 minutes per game. He ranks sixth in the ACC in minutes played. Despite playing all those minutes, Lacey has been whistled for just nine personal fouls.

Cat Barber has shot 48 foul shots in the first seven games, averaging 6.9 FT attempts per game. That ranks second in theACC behind Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell (7.8).

NC State is much improved on the glass. NC State ranked 326th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (64.3%) last season. That number has improved to 74.5%,which ranks 41st in the country.

NC State is currently third in the ACC in total rebounds per game (43.3), trailing just Louisville and UNC. The Wolfpack is fifth in the ACC in rebounding margin.

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