NOTES: Pack Heads To NYC

NC State faces West Virginia tonight at 9:30 in Madison Square Garden. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

NC State is back in “The Mecca.” The Wolfpack men’s basketball team is taking on nationally-ranked West Virginia Saturday night at Madison Square Garden on ESPN2. The contest is the main event of the Gotham Classic, hosted by The Gazelle Group.

THE STARTING FIVE 1. Pack Back In The Garden
Saturday night’s contest at Madison Square Garden will be NC State’s 10th appearance all-time in the “world’s most famous arena.” The Wolfpack is 5-4 all-time at MSG, including a 69-65 win over UConn in the 2012 Jimmy V Classic.

The Pack played a pair of games there in 2004 and made the NIT semifinal at MSG in 2000. Jim Valvano brought the Pack to The Garden four times in the 1980s, posting a 3-1 record.

2. Wolfpack Backcourt Holding Court
NC State is led by its three-guard attack, with Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Cat Barber combining to score 43.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.

Lacey leads the team and stands fourth in the ACC with 17.2 points per game. Turner, who exploded for 33 points this week vs. Tennessee, is averaging 14.9 points per game. Barber, State’s starting point guard, is scoring 11.5 per contest and leading the team in assists.

Barber and Lacey are also the team’s primary ballhandlers, combining for 82 assists against just 35 turnovers.

The NC State men’s basketball program will be returning to New York City for the second time in 11 weeks. The Wolfpack was able to take an educational trip to New York City this fall. The team toured the Big Apple during the school’s fall break, in accordance with NCAA rules that allow an educational trip as long as the students don’t miss class time.

Here are some stops the Wolfpack made in New York: Rucker Park, Amateur Night at the Apollo, the top of the Empire State Building, Motown: The Musical on Broadway, the 9/11 National Museum and Memorial, the NY Stock Exchange and the American Museum of Natural History.

4. Swat Team
NC State is among the national leaders in blocked shots. The Wolfpack currently leads the ACC and charts fifth in the nation with 6.82 blocked shots per game.

NCSU is led in this area by BeeJay Anya, who stands fifth in the country with 3.6 blocks per game. Earlier this season, Anya set a school record with 10 rejections in the Pack’s win over Jacksonville. The Pack blocked 14 shots in that game and have seven additional outings with six or more blocks.

5. Turnover Battle Is Strength Vs. Strength
A key for NC State Saturday night will be handling West Virginia’s defensive pressure. The Mountaineers lead the nation by forcing 23.0 turnovers per game. WVU forces a turnover on 32 percent of its defensive possessions. NC State has been strong with the ball this season, ranking 22nd in the nation in turnover percentage (15.2%).

That mark ranks third in the ACC (behind Duke and Notre Dame).

Few people on Earth have had a better week this week than Ralston Turner. The 6-5 fifth-year senior on Wednesday scored a career-high 33 points in NC State’s win over Tennessee. The next day, he graduated from NC State with a degree in sports management.

Ralston Turner scored a career-high 33 points vs. Tennessee on 9-for-18 shooting (8-for-17 3FG). He tied for second in NC State history for treys made in a game, one shy of the 1989 record set by Rodney Monroe. He had 17 points in the first half with five 3-pointers and then added 16 in the second half.

Turner was also 7-for-8 from the foul line. His previous career high was 24 points, which came in November vs. Hofstra.

GOOD SCOUT ON WEST VIRGINIAB NC State has had a little extra perspective this week in scouting West Virginia. On the scout team is Terry Henderson, a 6-3 guard who transferred to NC State after two seasons at WVU. Henderson, who has played the part of Juwan Staten in practice, averaged 11.7 points per game for West Virginia last season and figures to contribute for the Pack next year. Additionally, NC State grad assistant Ben Asher is a West Virginia alum and former basketball manager.

Mark Gottfried and Bob Huggins have coached against each other one time. The two coaches faced each other on Dec. 22, 2000 in Puerto Rico when Gottfried coached Alabama and Huggins was at Cincinnati. Both teams were nationally-ranked and Huggins pulled out a 77-74 overtime win.

While Kyle Washington lists his hometown as Champlin, Minn., New York is a home of sorts for him. His father formerly worked for the New York Knicks and the Washington's lived in Queens until Kyle was 5 years old. They lived in New Jersey for four more years after that as well.

Caleb Martin, a 6-6 freshman from Mocksville, N.C., was voted ACC Freshman of the Week after a career-best outing last Friday night. Martin posted career highs of 17 points and seven rebounds in NC State’s 86- 50 win over Charleston Southern. For the week, Martin averaged 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in two games.

The Wolfpack is 15-8 on neutral courts under Mark Gottfried, which includes a 69-65 win over UConn at MSG in 2012. NC State has won six ACC Tournament games and three NCAA Tournament games in addition to trips to Puerto Rico, New York and East Rutherford, N.J.

NC State is holding opponents to .360 shooting this season, good for fourth in the ACC. When digging a bit further, you can see NC State is one of the better defensive teams in the country right now. The Pack stands 11th in the nation in defending 2-point field goals and 16th in the country in effective field goal percentage defense.

Ralston Turner is currently leading the ACC in 3-pointers made per game (2.73) and free throw percentage (.903). Turner is 28-for-31 at the foul line this season. The senior from Alabama is also sixth in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (.423).

NC State shot .553 from the floor vs. Wake, the first time it has shot 55% in a game since a .582 mark vs. ECU on 12/21/13. The last ACC game with 55% shooting came on 2/27/13, when the Pack shot .559 in a win over Boston College.

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.

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