After three straight wins, a red hot NC State men’s basketball team travels to Boston College Saturday for a noon contest. The Wolfpack enters after winning 58-46 at UNC on Tuesday night, its third win over a team in the top 20 of the RPI.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. Wolfpack's Marquee Wins
NC State has bolstered its postseason profile with wins over several marquee opponents. The Wolfpack defeated then-undefeated Duke 87-75 back on Jan. 11, and now it owns a pair of top-20 RPI road wins. Behind 21 points from Cat Barber, NC State ran past Louisville (RPI 19) 74-65 at the KFC Yum! Center on Valentine's Day. The Pack followed that with a rout over Virginia Tech and this week's 58-46 victory at UNC (RPI 16). The 46 points allowed at UNC was the lowest the Tar Heels have ever scored at the Smith Center. Overall, NC State owns five wins over the ESPN.com's top 50 RPI and seven wins vs. the top 75.
2. The (Third) Best Around
According to ESPN.com's Daily RPI, NC State has played the nation's third-toughest schedule. Only Big 12 leader Kansas and ACC rival UNC-Chapel Hill have played a more challenging schedule than NC State. After 15 ACC games, NC State's conference strength of schedule is No. 5 in the country. The Pack has played 11 games against the current top 50 of the RPI, which is tied for third-most in the ACC. Overall, the Wolfpack has seven wins against top 75 teams (Duke, Louisville, Boise State, Pitt, Louisiana Tech, Richmond and UNC-CH) 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 41.0 points per game on .439 shooting with 10.8 rebounds per game. The Wolfpack is 7-2 this season when all three of those players scores in double figures, including the last three games. The Pack also owns an 8-1 record when Lacey, Turner and Barber combine for 45 points.
4. Getting Defensive
NC State's defensive effort in Chapel Hill this week was historic. The Wolfpack suffocated the Tar Heels, allowing them just 46 points on .345 shooting. NC State allowed its rival just 18 first-half points and seven first-half field goals. That performance came after NC State held Virginia Tech to 53 points on Feb. 21. In its win at Louisville on Feb. 14, NC State limited the Cardinals to .328 shooting in a 74-65 victory. Over the last three games, NC State is allowing 54.7 points per game while holding opponents to .372 shooting.
5. Ralston's Resurgence
In the four games from Jan. 28 through Feb. 11,Ralston Turner averaged 9.3 points on 11-for-43 shooting. Turner has surged since then, averaging 14.0 points on 15-for-29 shooting in NC State's last three victories. Turner has shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range in each of the last two games, and his clutch trey with 5:06 left in the game at Chapel Hill stopped a 14-2 run against the Wolfpack.
‘GOTT’ BOSTON COLLEGE FIGURED OUT
Under Mark Gottfried, NC State has won the last six meetings vs. Boston College, posting an average margin of victory of 11.8 per game. Overall, NC State has won eight of the last nine vs. BC.
NEED TO HOLD DOWN HANLAN
NC State is tasked with containing BC’s Olivier Hanlan, who averages a league-best 22.5 points in ACC play. NC State has allowed 20 points against just five ACC players this season (Jerian Grant, Codi M-M, Marcus G-H, Marcus Paige, Jahlil Okafor).
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 (16.3), fifth in 3-point percentage (.409), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.33) and fourth in minutes played (36.04).
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 when he makes three or more 3-pointers.
Saturday’s game marks a homecoming of sorts for Abdul-Malik Abu, a freshman forward from Boston. Abu is expected to have 27 friends and family in attendance for Saturday’s game.
MORE ON THE CAT
Cat Barber is averaging 18.0 points per game over the last six 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 25 assists against eight turnovers and 10 steals over the last six games.
NC State is second in the ACC with 5.46 swats per game, trailing just Louisville (5.82). NCSU is led in this area by ACC blocks leader BeeJay Anya, who averages a league-best 2.71 rejections per game. Anya rejected six shots in the win at UNC. This season, the Pack has nine outings with seven or more blocked shots.
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.
GOTT SOME ACC ROAD WINS
Under Mark Gottfried, NC State owns 15 ACC road wins (15-16). The Pack earned eight ACC road wins over the past two seasons. NC State has won at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and North Carolina this season.