NOTES: Pack Back In Action

NC State returns to action tonight at 8:00 against Virginia. Here are some pregame notes on the Wolfpack.

The NC State men’s basketball team has an opportunity to earn a quality win Wednesday night when No. 2/3 Virginia comes to PNC Arena at 8 p.m. A win over Virginia would be NC State’s second against a ranked team this season.

1. Wolfpack Strength Of Schedule:
9TH NC State is no stranger to playing the nation’s elite teams. According to’s Daily RPI, NC State has played the nation’s ninth-toughest schedule. That number will surely improve after Wednesday night’s game against ACC-leading Cavaliers.

After 11 ACC games, NC State’s conference strength of schedule is 25th in the nation. The Pack has already played eight games against the current RPI top 50, highlighted by wins over Duke and Boise State.

Overall, the Wolfpack has four wins against top 80 teams (Duke, Boise State, Pitt, Louisiana Tech) and nine of NC State’s 10 losses are to teams in the top 75 of the RPI.

2. NC State-Virginia
Wednesday’s contest is the 144th meeting between the Wolfpack and the Cavaliers, with NC State holding an 82-61 all-time series lead. The series, which dates back to 1913, saw NC State dominate at the turn of the century (9-3 vs. UVa from 2001-06) but Virginia has gained momentum in recent years. NC State is 7-5 all-time against Virginia at PNC Arena.

3. Keep Cat Hot
Mark Gottfried called Barber’s 23-point, 7-assist game at Georgia Tech his best game as a college player. The sophomore point guard, inserted back into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for two games, scored 18 points in the first half as NC State build a commanding lead and went on to win in overtime. In the next outing, Barber was even better. He scored a career-high 28 points and made four 3-pointers at Wake Forest. Over the past two games, Barber is averaging 25.5 points and 5.5 assists with just one turnover.

4. What's Different From The First Meeting?
NC State and Virginia played a tight game a month ago in Charlottesville, with the home team pulling away late to win 61-51. NC State led Virginia 42-41 with 9:20 left and trailed by just one at halftime. Three factors have swayed to NC State’s favor in Wednesday’s rematch: Virginia is without star wing Justin Anderson, who is recovering from surgery on a broken finger; NC State is coming off a week of rest and recovery since playing on Feb. 3; the Pack is playing at PNC Arena, where it owns an 11-4 record this season.

5. A Break, Play Twice, Another Break
For much of this season, NC State had been playing a high volume of games in a short period of time. That trend has leveled out in February, with NC State having two bye weeks. NC State is coming off a stretch of eight days without a game. That’s the longest period of time between games this season. In addition, NC State has seven days between games after it plays at Louisville on Feb. 14.

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 14 wins this season, Lacey and Turner combine for 33.0 points per game on .463 field goal shooting and 8.7 rebounds per game. In ten losses, the duo combines for 25.0 points on .398 shooting and 6.7 rebounds.

Cat Barber is averaging 25.5 points per game over the last two outings, posting two of his top three career scoring performances back-to-back. After scoring 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting at Georgia Tech, Barber dropped 28 points on 11-for-20 shooting at Wake Forest. He has 11 assists against one turnover and four steals over those two games.

NC State trailed at Georgia Tech 80-76 with 19.4 seconds left in overtime. That’s when Trevor Lacey went to work. He drove to the rim and scored with 6.5 seconds left to make it 80-78. NC State then had to foul, putting Tech’s Quinton Stephens on the line. He missed both. Cody Martin rebounded the miss and passed to Lacey, who took two dribbles and drilled the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Wolfpack is 189-72 all-time at PNC Arena, including an 11-4 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 50-17 record in the arena, which is the eighth-largest in all of college basketball.

NC State is aiming to end a three-game home losing streak. A loss to Virginia on Wednesday night would make four straight home losses for NC State for the first time since 2008: Clemson (2/16/08), North Carolina (2/20/08), Florida State (2/27/08) and Duke (3/1/08).

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 (16.7), fourth in 3-point percentage (.420), seventh in 3-pointers made (2.39), eighth in field goal percentage (.462) and third in minutes played (36.00).

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 5-2 record when Lacey makes seven or more field goals and 7-4 when he makes three or more 3-pointers.

The game vs. UVa is NC State’s 18th home game, which is the highest total in the nation. Only six teams have currently played 16 home games (Arkansas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Cal, James Madison). NC State will play four of its final six on the road.

NC State is second in the ACC with 5.38 blocks per game, trailing just Louisville. NCSU is led in this area by ACC blocks leader BeeJay Anya, who averages a league-best 2.46 rejections per game. The Pack has seven outings with seven or more blocked shots. NC State blocked 10 shots on Jan. 11 vs. Duke.

With eight regular season games remaining, Bee- Jay Anya is already fourth on NC State’s single-season blocks chart with 59. He needs four more swats to tie Chuck Nevitt (1981-82) for third.

Abdul-Malik Abu, known around the program simply as Malik, has shown great improvement in recent weeks. Abu posted his first career double-double in the Clemson game, totaling 15 points and 12 rebounds. He averaged 13.5 points per game in games vs. Miami and Notre Dame. He had a career night in NC State’s game at Miami, scoring 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

Virginia is statistically the nation’s best defensive team, thus it’s important to find easy baskets. That’s easier said than done, obviously. During the previous meeting between the two teams, Virginia held NC State scoreless in fast break points. An increase in transition scoring could be a key for NC State Wednesday night.

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