NOTES: Pack Back In Action

NC State hosts Clemson tonight at 9:00 on the ACC Network. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

Two teams trying to climb in the ACC standings will collide Wednesday night when the NC State men’s basketball team hosts Clemson at PNC Arena. The Wolfpack is one game ahead of Clemson in the win column and can stay in the top half of the league standings with a victory.

1. Ratings Game

As the calendar creeps forward to February, the college basketball ratings metrics become more clear. The Wolfpack is currently No. 44 in ESPN’s Daily RPI, with the nation’s third-strongest schedule and a conference strength of schedule of fourth.

Only Kansas and VCU have played a more challenging schedule than NC State. Mark Gottfried’s team owns five wins against the RPI top 80, including an 87-75 win over Duke. Four regular season games against the current RPI top 75 remain: at home against Virginia and Syracuse and on the road vs. Louisville and UNC-Chapel Hill.

2. From One Style Of Play Extreme To The Other
After playing against the ACC’s highest scoring offense in Notre Dame, NC State will be facing a much different style of play when Clemson visits Raleigh Wednesday night. Clemson, unlike Notre Dame, prefers a slower, defensive-minded approach. The Tigers are last in the ACC in scoring (62.8) while ranking fourth in points allowed (61.5).

3. Making Shots And Blocking Shots
In ACC play, NC State ranks second in the conference with a .469 field goal percentage. NC State has shot better than 55 percent twice in league play, and better than 51 percent three times. NCSU converted 55.3 percent of its shots vs. Wake Forest in December, then shot 55.0 percent in its win over Duke. The Wolfpack also leads the ACC in field goals made in league play (187).

Additionally, the Pack is the ACC’s top shot-blocking team in league play with 5.38 rejections per game.

4. Need Perimeter Scoring
It’s no secret NC State’s on-court success is driven by its perimeter players, primarily leading scorers Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner. In NCSU’s 13 wins this season, Lacey and Turner combine for 33.2 points per game on .474 field goal shooting and 8.9 rebounds per game. In eight losses, the duo combines for 24.8 points on .392 shooting and 6.6 rebounds.

5. Increased Post Production
One question for this year’s NC State squad has been finding the right combinations and match-ups for the team’s four post players. The Wolfpack bigs, led by Kyle Washington, have produced more in recent games.

Washington is averaging 10.8 points per game on .565 shooting over the last five contests, including tying his career best of 17 points vs. UNC-Chapel Hill. Additionally, freshman Abdul-Malik Abu averaged 13.5 points on .632 shooting during NC State’s last two games.

When NC State and Clemson meet on the gridiron, the game is dubbed the “Textile Bowl”, due to each school’s successful textiles academic program. NC State and Clemson have two of the largest textile programs in the world, and the textile industry is paramount to the economies of North and South Carolina.

In a strange twist of scheduling, Wednesday’s contest will be just Clemson’s third visit to PNC Arena in five seasons. In the last six meetings vs. Clemson, NC State has been the road team four times. The Pack goes back to Clemson later this season on March 3.

While NC State has had some near misses against the nation’s top competition, there can be little doubt the Wolfpack fares well competitively against top-ranked teams. NC State is three possessions away from a 7-1 league record and three additional wins over RPI top 40 teams.

- In 81-79 loss to UNC: had tip-in attempt hit the rim with 0.2 seconds left that would’ve tied the game.

- In 65-60 loss at Miami: shot 3-pointer to take the lead with 43 seconds left.

- In 81-78 loss to Notre Dame: had ball with 71-69 lead with 15 seconds left.

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 sixth in the league in scoring (16.5), fourth in 3-point percentage (.417), seventh in 3-pointers made (2.25) and third in minutes played (35.80).

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. NC State owns a 4-2 record when Lacey makes seven or more field goals and 6-3 when he makes three or more 3-pointers.

Abdul-Malik Abu, known around the program simply as Malik, averaged 13.5 points per game in a pair of games last week. He had a career night in NC State’s game at Miami, scoring 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting. It was his first career double-digit scoring game in league play.

Kyle Washington tied his career high with 17 points in the loss to North Carolina. He also had nine points and four blocks in the win over Duke. Washington, who averages 7.9 points per game on the season, is scoring 10.8 points over the last five games. Washington owns two double-doubles this year (vs. Louisiana Tech and at Virginia) and six outings with double-figure scoring.

The Wolfpack is 189-71 all-time at PNC Arena, including an 11-3 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 50-16 record in the arena, which is the eighth-largest in all of college basketball.

NC State is second in the ACC with 5.71 blocks per game, trailing just Louisville. NCSU is led in this area by ACC blocks leader BeeJay Anya, who averages a league-best 2.76 blocks per game. The Pack has seven outings with seven or more blocked shots. NC State blocked 10 shots on Jan. 11 vs. Duke.

With perhaps two months remaining in the season, BeeJay Anya is already tied for fourth on NC State’s single-season blocks chart with 56. He needs seven more swats to tie Chuck Nevitt (1981- 82) for third.

Not only is NC State second in the ACC in shooting in league play, but it ranks third in ACC play by holding league opponents to .407 shooting. Only North Carolina (.556) has shot better than 44 percent against the Pack.

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