NOTES: Duke Up Next

NC State faces No. 2 Duke today at 1:30 in PNC Arena. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

NC State will face its second consecutive top 5 opponent when the Wolfpack hosts No. 2 Duke Sunday, Jan. 11 at PNC Arena. The game is a nationally-televised contest on CBS. The Wolfpack is coming off a road loss at No. 3 Virginia, a game NC State led in the second half.

1. Another Chance At A Signature Win

Sunday’s game vs. No. 2 Duke is the second game of a stretch that sees NC State play three consecutive games with ranked opponents, all in an eight-day stretch. After playing at No. 3 Virginia on Wednesday, this is the first time since 1992 NC State has played two teams in a row ranked in the AP top 5.

After playing Duke (RPI 5), NCSU will take on No. 18/17 UNC-Chapel Hill (RPI 21). NC State is currently No. 43 in the RPI with the No. 8 strength of schedule. The Pack currently owns three top-75 wins (Boise State, Tennessee, Pittsburgh) and can climb college basketball’s rankings with good showings in the upcoming games.

2. Realignment Casualty
As the ACC has transformed in membership over the years, so too have traditional rivalries. NC State and Duke played each other twice each year from the 1923-24 season until 2005-06. In a series dating back to 1911, this season marks just the eighth time the two schools will meet just once in the regular season. Sunday’s game is the 240th edition of the NC State-Duke rivalry.

3. NC State Better Than Second-Ranked Teams
While NC State has 174 all-time wins against opponents ranked by the AP, the Wolfpack has beaten the poll’s No. 2 team six times. The last time NC State beat the nation’s second-ranked team was March 9, 2002 when it defeated Maryland 86-82 in the ACC Tournament. However, NC State has beaten a top-ranked Duke team twice since then. The Pack took down Duke when the Devils were No. 1 in 2004 and again in 2013.

4. Wolfpack Getting Defensive
Through three ACC games, the Wolfpack has turned in three solid defensive efforts. On Dec. 6, NC State held Wake Forest to .386 shooting and forced the Deacons into 11 turnovers. The Pack suffocated Pittsburgh on Jan. 3, holding the Panthers to 50 points on .327 shooting.

While NC State did fall 61-51 at Virginia on Wednesday, NC State held the Cavs to .411 shooting in a game that was, until some late free throws by Virginia, a defensive battle played in the 50’s.

5. Cat, Trevor, And Ralston Lead The Attack
NC State is led by its three-guard attack, with Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Cat Barber combining for 41.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Lacey is fifth in the ACC in scoring with 16.7 points per game. Turner, the team’s leading long-range shooter, scores 13.1 points per contest. Barber, State’s starting point guard, is scoring 11.8 per game and leads the team in assists.

NC State coaches implore their post players to force opponents shoot over them, and not let them go around them. The result of that advice has been a Wolfpack squad that ranks second in the ACC and 12th in the nation with 6.06 blocked shots per game.

NCSU is led in this area by BeeJay Anya, who stands 12th in the country with 3.06 blocks per game. The Pack has six outings with seven or more blocked shots. Among ACC teams, only Louisville (6.07) averages more blocks per game than NC State.

In NC State’s storied basketball history, rarely has the Wolfpack played two schools in a row ranked in 5th or better in the AP during the regular season. The last time that happened was February 1992, when State played #1 Duke and #4 North Carolina in a row. NC State lost to Duke but won at Chapel Hill 99-94 behind 29 points from Kevin Thompson and 25 from Mark Davis.

The last time NC State played three ranked opponents in a row was January 2010, when the Pack played #25 Florida State, #24 Clemson and #7 Duke all in a row. NC State went 2-1 in that stretch, winning at FSU then beating Duke in Raleigh.

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 fifth in the league in scoring (16.7), is fourth in 3-point percentage (.438), ninth in 3-pointers made (2.13) and third in minutes played (34.93).

Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey combine to make the most prolific 3-point shooting duo in the ACC. Turner and Lacey combine for 71 made 3-pointers and a .420 3-point percentage. Turner and Lacey both appear among the ACC leaders for 3-point percentage and treys made. State is the only team in the ACC to have two players with 30 made 3-point field goals this season.

Ralston Turner on Dec. 17 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.

Athletic freshman Abdul-Malik Abu has improved and, as a result, has earned more playing time. Abu made his first two career starts in the last two games and played 25 minutes or more four times recently after not having done so over the first 10 games of the season. Abu is scoring 5.6 points and grabbing 5.0 rebounds over the last four games. That’s not to mention eight games ago when Abu had a season-high 11 points vs. Charleston Southern.

The Wolfpack is 188-69 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 49-14 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.

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