NOTES: Panthers Up Next

Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack as they prepare to face Pittsburgh today at noon in PNC Arena.

The NC State men’s basketball team begins 2015 with a noon game vs. Pittsburgh Saturday, Jan. 3. The Wolfpack is 1-0 in ACC play heading into its true conference season. Today’s game will be televised on the ACC’s network of affiliates.

1. Remember NC State Has One ACC Win Already

While ACC play begins in earnest this weekend, NC State is already atop the standings at 1-0. The Wolfpack defeated Wake Forest 78-65 at home back on Dec. 6 and have had that 1-0 league record for nearly a month. There was one other league game scheduled in December, an 83-63 Notre Dame victory at Florida State. NC State has 17 games remaining on the regular season schedule, including eight home games.

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 42.4 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Lacey is among the ACC’s leaders in points per game (17.1). Turner, who scored 33 points vs. Tennessee, scores 12.9 points per game. Barber, State’s starting point guard, is scoring 12.4 per contest and leads the team in assists.

3. Pitt Split
Last year was NC State’s first season having Pittsburgh as an ACC opponent. The Wolfpack split its two meetings with the Panthers, picking up a critical road on March 7 of last year. That game featured 41 points by T.J. Warren and was a catalyst in lifting NC State into the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh’s first ACC game ever was at PNC Arena on Jan. 4, a game the Panthers won 74-62. NC State actually opened that game with a 17-2 lead before Pittsburgh rallied to win.

4. Opponents Feeling Rejected
One thing NC State has done at an elite level so far this season is block shots. The Wolfpack stands second in the ACC and 13th in the nation with 6.00 blocked shots per game. NCSU is led in this area by BeeJay Anya, who stands ninth in the country with 3.21 blocks per game. The Pack has five outings with seven or more blocked shots. Among ACC teams, only Louisville (6.62) has more blocks than NC State.

5. Increased Production From Kyle
Kyle Washington’s numbers have increased over the last two games. The 6-9 sophomore is averaging 10.5 points and 8.0 rebounds on .500 shooting in the last two contests. Washington posted a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds vs. Louisiana Tech on Dec. 23 and tallied 10 points and six rebounds in NC State’s game vs. Cincinnati. He has also made eight of his last nine free throws and currently shoots .800 at the line on the season.

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 ranks fourth in the league in scoring (17.1), is fifth in 3-point percentage (.429), ninth in 3-pointers made (2.08) and third in minutes played (34.92).

Down 18 in the second half, NC State rallied with a flurry to defeat Louisiana Tech on Dec. 23. The Wolfpack trailed 50-32 at the 14:11 mark and rallied with an 18-2 run to cut the deficit to 52-50. NC State took a 61-60 lead with 4:25 left and never trailed again. In all, State held La Tech to .292 shooting in the second half and to just three field goals in the game’s final 9:39.

NC State shot 0-for-5 from the 3-point arc vs. Cincinnati on Dec .30. It marked the first time NCSU did not make a 3-point field goal since 2/10/10, when it shot 0-for-11 in a loss to Virginia Tech.

Athletic freshman Abdul-Malik Abu has improved and, as a result, has earned more playing time. Abu is averaging 24.3 minutes over the last four games after playing 12.4 minutes in the season’s first 10 games.

Abu is scoring 8.3 points on .706 shooting and grabbing 4.0 rebounds over the last four games. That’s not to mention six games ago when Abu had a season-high 11 points vs. Charleston Southern.

When Pitt coach Jamie Dixon broke the record for most wins over a coach’s first six seasons, he passed Hall of Fame Wolfpack coach Everett Case. Case won 161 games from 1946-52. Dixon’s 162nd win came during the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Caleb Martin, a 6-6 freshman from Mocksville, N.C., was voted ACC Freshman of the Week after a career-best outing on Dec. 12. 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 187-69 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 48-14 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.

Ralston Turner is in the ACC’s top 10 in both 3-point shooting percentage (8th) and 3-pointers made (7th). He is also shooting .868 at the foul line, which would be good for second in the ACC if he had two more free throws made on the year.

NC State finished the 2014 calendar with a 22-15 record. State was 12-11 after New Year’s last year and 10-4 this season before Jan. 1.

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.

The third week of December wasn’t a bad one for Ralston Turner. The 6-5 fifth-year senior last 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.

NC State shot .553 from the floor vs. Wake on Dec. 6, 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.

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