NOTES: Home Test For State

The NC State men’s basketball team aims for its 10th win of the season when it hosts Louisiana Tech Tuesday, Dec. 23 at PNC Arena. It’s the final game for the Pack before a week-long holiday break.

1. A Winning Holiday

Every basketball coach in America wants to go into his holiday break on a winning note. NC State is 3-0 under Mark Gottfried in the game just before the team is able to take a holiday break. The Wolfpack has won the last four games heading into the holidays and hasn’t lost since a 2009 loss at Arizona on Dec. 23 of that year.

2. Wolfpack Led By The Backcourt
NC State is led by its three-guard attack, with Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Cat Barber combining to score 44.0 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Lacey leads the team and stands second in the ACC with 17.8 points per game. Turner, who exploded for 33 points this week vs. Tennessee, is averaging 14.4 points per game.

Barber, State’s starting point guard, is scoring 11.9 per contest and leading the team in assists. Barber and Lacey are also the team’s primary ballhandlers, combining for 88 assists against just 45 turnovers.

3. Bouncing Back In Non-ACC Play
The Pack is coming off a loss to a nationally-ranked West Virginia team, but Mark Gottfried’s NC State teams have built a track record of bouncing back after nonconference losses. The Wolfpack is 10-1 in the game immediately following a nonconference loss. Only once under Gottfried has NC State lost two non-ACC games in a row. That came in 2011 in consecutive games against Indiana and Stanford.

4. Block Party
NC State has all season ranked among the national leaders in blocked shots. The Wolfpack stands second in the ACC and ninth in the nation with 6.50 blocked shots per game. NCSU is led in this area by BeeJay Anya, who stands fifth in the country with 3.5 blocks per game. Earlier this season, Anya set a school record with 10 rejections in the Pack’s win over Jacksonville. Anya will have a showdown with Louisiana Tech’s Michale Kyser, who is fourth in the country with 3.6 rejections per game.

5. Beat The Bulldogs On The Boards
One factor to watch Tuesday night will be the battle on the boards. NC State enjoys a +8.0 rebounding margin and is in the top 100 in both offensive rebounding and defensive rebounding percentages. Louisiana Tech has struggled on the glass, posting a -8.4 rebounding margin on the year. Louisiana Tech has been out-rebounded in every game this season, including by 23 by Nicholls State.

Ralston Turner on Wednesday 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.

Last week wasn’t a bad one for Ralston Turner. The 6-5 fifth-year senior last Wednesday scored a careerhigh 33 points in NC State’s win over Tennessee. The next day, he graduated from NC State with a degree in sports management.

One area where NC State statistically appears to have a large advantage is on the glass. Louisiana Tech has allowed 17 or more offensive rebounds six times this season, including five times to low- and mid-major teams. NC State is 9-0 this season when grabbing more rebounds than its opponent.

Louisiana Tech head coach Michael White has a close connection to the ACC and the Triangle in particular. White father, Kevin White, is the athletic director at Duke University. Duke is located 26 miles west of NC State’s campus.

Trevor Lacey’s play is critical to the Wolfpack on the court. As a result, his name is littered all over the ACC leadboards. Lacey currently stands second in the league in scoring (17.8), third in 3-point percentage (.453), seventh in 3-pointers made (2.18) and third in minutes played (34.55).

Caleb Martin, a 6-6 freshman from Mocksville, N.C., was voted ACC Freshman of the Week after a careerbest 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 186-68 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 47-13 record in the arena, which is the eighth-largest in all of college basketball.

NC State is holding opponents to .374 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 13th in the nation in defending 2-point field goals and 26th in the country in effective field goal percentage defense.

Ralston Turner is currently leading the ACC with 31 made 3-pointers this season. He led the conference in free throw percentage until missing a pair on Saturday. Turner is 32-for-37 at the foul line this season. The senior from Alabama is also sixth in the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (.425).

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.

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 longrange shooter who scored 11.7 ppg at WVU last season.

Lennard Freeman has quietly been one of NC State’s most productive players. Freeman ranks 13th in the ACC with 7.1 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 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 for two late baskets and then he 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.

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