One of college basketball’s storied rivalries is renewed when NC State hosts No. 15 UNC Chapel Hill tonight in a game televised on ESPN2. The game marks NC State’s third consecutive contest against a ranked opponent.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. The Next Episode Of A Storied Tradition
Wednesday’s contest is the 227th meeting between the two rivals, NC State’s third-most prolific rivalry in men’s basketball (behind Wake Forest and Duke). The visiting Tar Heels edged the Pack 85-84 in overtime 11 months ago in a game that saw a duel between T.J. Warren and Marcus Paige.
Warren scored 36 points and Paige finished with 35 in a game that featured 10 ties and five lead changes. Along with Wake Forest, UNC-Chapel Hill is the Wolfpack’s home-and-home ACC opponent every year. The other two home-and-home opponents (this year Virginia and Clemson) rotate each year.
2. Capitalizing On A Challenging Stretch
NC State will be finishing an eight-day stretch that saw the Wolfpack play three consecutive games with ranked opponents. After dropping a game at then-No. 3 Virginia last Wednesday, the Wolfpack captured an 87-75 win over then-No. 2 Duke. The stretch has challenged Mark Gottfried’s team and allowed it to climb in the college basketball rankings. NC State is currently No. 30 in the RPI with the No. 7 strength of schedule.
The Pack currently owns five top-100 wins (Richmond, Boise State, Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Duke) and can further improve its standing Wednesday night against UNC-Chapel Hill (RPI 14).
3. ACC Player Of The Week
Trevor Lacey was voted the ACC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week this week after leading NC State to its win over previously-unbeaten Duke. Lacey scored 21 points and shot 5-for-7 from 3-point range against the Blue Devils. With NC State leading 50-48, Lacey scored eight points in a 22-5 run that put the Wolfpack ahead by 19. For the week, Lacey averaged 15.0 points in two games while shooting 8-for-13 from beyond the arc.
4. Defending The ACC
NC State is off to a 3-1 start in ACC games and its defense is a main reason why. NC State is holding ACC opponents to .373 shooting and no league foe has shot better than .411 against the Pack. On Dec. 6, NC State limited Wake Forest to .386 shooting. 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, it held the Cavs to .411 shooting. Duke shot a season-low .369 against NC State while the Pack blocked 10 shots.
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 11.2 rebounds per game. Lacey is fourth in the ACC in scoring with 16.9 points per game. Turner, the team’s leading long-range shooter, scores 13.3 points per contest. Barber, State’s starting point guard, is scoring 11.4 per game and leads the team in assists.
NC State leads the ACC and stands seventh in the nation with 6.29 blocked shots per game. NCSU is led in this area by BeeJay Anya, who stands 12th in the country with 3.12 blocks per game. The Pack has seven outings with seven or more blocked shots. NC State is coming off a 10-block game vs. Duke.
BACK-TO-BACK TOP 5’s FOR STATE IN REGULAR SEASON
The past week has seen the Wolfpack play two schools in a row (UVa, Duke) ranked No. 5 or better in the AP poll. 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.
THREE RANKED OPPONENTS IN A ROW
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.
NC State is aiming for a repeat of its 2013 home win over North Carolina, a 91-83 victory that came with ESPN College Gameday at PNC Arena. The Wolfpack stormed to a 45-26 halftime lead and at one point led by 28. Three players had double-doubles for NC State (Lorenzo Brown 20 pts, 11 asts; C.J. Leslie 17 pts, 10 rebs; Richard Howell 16 pts, 14 rebs).
BEEJAY’S BEST GAME
BeeJay Anya turned in the best game of his Wolfpack career in the win over Duke. Anya scored a career-high 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting, with several buckets coming right over Duke star Jahlil Okafor. Anya also grabbed six rebounds and blocked four shots.
TREVOR AMONG THE ACC’S BEST
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 (16.9), is second in 3-point percentage (.463), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.31) and third in minutes played (35.00).
NOBODY IN THE ACC MAKES MORE SHOTS
Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey combine to make the most prolific 3-point shooting duo in the ACC. Turner and Lacey combine for 80 made 3-pointers and a .437 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 35 made 3-point field goals this season.
NC State’s often-maligned group of post players had, collectively, its finest performance in the Duke game. The four bigs BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington, Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman combined for 35 points (on 16-for-28 shooting) and 20 rebounds. In addition to Anya’s 14 points off the bench, Abu started the game and totaled eight points and eight boards, including three momentum-swinging dunks. Washington chipped in nine points and four blocks.
NC STATE AT HOME
The Wolfpack is 189-69 all-time at PNC Arena, including an 11-1 mark this season. NC State went 12-6 at PNC last season and 15-1 there in the 2012- 13 season. Mark Gottfried owns a 50-14 record in the arena, which is the eighth-largest in all of college basketball.
NEED TREVOR TO SCORE
Trevor Lacey has produced seven outings with 20+ points, and NC State is 6-1 in those games. The only loss came on Dec. 20 to West Virginia, a game the Pack lost but got 24 points from Lacey.
WINNING THE TRANSFER GAME
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.
NC State is leading the league in field goal shooting (.500) in its four league games. The Pack has shot better than 51 percent in three of its four ACC contests, including a .553 mark vs. Wake Forest and .550 against Duke.
3 SEASONS, 3 NCAA TRIPs
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.
WOLFPACK IN THE 1ST MONTH
NC State owns a 16-11 mark in January under Mark Gottfried. That includes a 5-5 split of the last 10 games and a 5-3 mark in January 2013.
TREVOR APPROACHING 1,000
Trevor Lacey enters Wednesday’s game vs. UNC with 917 career points (646 of which came during two seasons at Alabama). Lacey has tallied 271 career points at NC State.