NC State and North Carolina will meet on the hardwood for the 228th time when the two teams play Tuesday night in Chapel Hill. The contest is the first of three road games for the Wolfpack. NCSU-UNC will be televised locally on WRAL and on a list of affiliates across the nation.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Wolfpack-Tar Heels, Episode 28
Wednesday’s contest is the 228th meeting between the two rivals, NC State’s third-most prolific rivalry in men’s basketball (behind Wake Forest and Duke). The host Tar Heels edged the Pack 81-79 five weeks ago at PNC Arena. Last year, the two teams dueled in an 85-84 overtime classic a year ago in a game that saw T.J. Warren score 36 points and Marcus Paige finish with 35. The Pack and the Tar Heels have played at least twice a year each season since 1919-20.
2. Third Toughest In The Nation
According to ESPN.com’s Daily RPI, NC State has played the nation’s third-toughest schedule. Only Big 12 leader Kansas and UNC-Chapel Hill have played a more challenging schedule than NC State. After 14 ACC games, NC State’s conference strength of schedule is No. 6 in the country. The Pack has already played nine games against the current RPI top 50, highlighted by quali ty wins over Duke, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Boise State. Over all, the Wolfpack has six wins against top 75 teams (Duke, Louisville, Boise State, Pitt, Louisiana Tech and Tennessee) and nine of NC State’s 11 losses are to teams in the top 70 of the RPI.
3. Perimeter Power
There’s no question NC State is led by its starting perimeter players Trevor Lacey, Ralston Turner and Cat Barber. The trio combines to average 40.9 points per game on .442 shooting with 10.7 rebounds per game. The Wolfpack is 6-2 this season when all three of those players scores in double figures, including the last two games. The Pack also owns an 8-1 record when Lacey, Turner and Barber combine for 45 points. the Pack Lacey has scored in double figures in 12 of the last 13 contests and Barber is scoring 18.6 points per game over the last five games.
4. More Minutes For Lennard
Lennard Freeman is a solid rebounder, heady defender and screens and passes well within NC State’s offense. His minutes have trended up recently, similar to last season when the 6-8 forward played 20.0 minutes in the 2014 postseason. This season, NCSU is 9-2 when Freeman plays 20 or more minutes. The Pack owns a 7-1 record when he grabs at least eight rebounds and 8-1 when he leads the team in rebounding.
5. Last Year's Resume Vs. Now
At this point in the season last year, NC State owned a single top 50 RPI victory, a December road win at Tennessee. The Wolfpack went on to earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament and advance to the tourney’s second round. This year’s squad own four wins vs. the RPI top 50, including wins over Duke (RPI 4) and Louisville (RPI 18).
TREVOR UP FOR THE LOGO AWARD
The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this week released 16 finalists for the Jerry West Award, and Trevor Lacey was on the list. The Jerry West Award goes to the nation’s best shooting guard. The watch list will be cut to five finalists on March 9 and then the winner is announced April 10.
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 sixth in the league in scoring (16.5), fifth in 3-point percentage (.415), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.36), eighth in field goal percentage (.459) and fourth in minutes played (35.92).
NC STATE WHEN TREVOR GIVES BUCKETS
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 wh en he makes three or more 3-pointers.
NC State is second in the ACC with 5.41 swats per game, trailing just Louisville (5.93). NCSU is led in this area by ACC blocks leader BeeJay Anya, who averages a league-best 2.59 rejections per game. The Pack has eight outings with seven or more blocked shots.
COMPETITIVE GRIND EVERY NIGHT
Win or lose, NC State has seen some razor-thin margins in ACC play. The Wolfpack is second in the conference with four losses by four or fewer points (Georgia Tech has five). The Wolfpack also captured an 81-80 overtime win at Georgia Tech after a buzzer beater 3-pointer by Trevor Lacey. Overall, NC State has played seven games this season that have been decided by four points or less.
MORE ON THE CAT
Cat Barber is averaging 18.6 points per game over the last five outings, including 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 added 21 in the win at Louisville and has 21 assists against five turnovers and 10 steals over the last five games.
CLOSE CALLS WITH CAROLINA
NC State has gone down to the wire with the rival Tar Heels in recent games. UNC has outscored NC State by just 22 points over the last six meetings (+3.7 scoring margin). Since Mark Gottfried came to State the two teams have played two games settled by a single basket and another by a single point.
DON’T OVERLOOK CALEB
While his scoring numbers are modest, Caleb Martin has been important for NC State down the stretch. Martin is averaging 7.0 rebounds per game over the last four outings, with a career-high 10 boards at Louisville. He added six points against the Cardinals, including a momentum-swinging dunk and a 3-pointer in the second half that helped NC State take command of the game. He scored eight points in the win over Virginia Tech.
BEEJAY’S BLOCKS WATCH
With five regular season games remaining, BeeJay Anya is already third on NC State’s single-season blocks chart with 67. He needs 13 more swats to tie Cedric Simmons (2005-06) for second. For his career, BeeJay has blocked 113 shots, ninth on NC State’s all-time list.
Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey have both surpassed the 1,000-point marks for their careers this season. Turner hit the mark in the season opener vs. Jackson State and now has 1,344 career points. Lacey reached 1,000 points at Georgia Tech and now owns 1,063 career points.
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 had a career night in NC State’s game at Miami, scoring 19 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
FOURTH IN SCORING
The Wolfpack has climbed to fourth in the ACC this season with 71.5 points per game. The Pack has scored 80 or more points seven times, posting a 6-1 record in those games.
NC State, which has played 19 home games, ranks 12th in the nation in average attendance (15,267). Overall, NC State’s drawn 290,067 fans, which ranks fourth in the country. When you only count State’s 17 games at PNC, the game average is 16,442.