Two Different Teams

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Don't think NC State is going to overlook Pittsburgh based on the their lone matchup earlier this season.

NC State, the No. 7 seed in the 2015 ACC Tournament, opens play tonight against No. 10 seed Pittsburgh. The two teams met earlier this season in PNC Arena, a 68-50 win by the Wolfpack.

NC State's wings, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner, were huge in that game, totaling 35 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field. Defensively, State blocked nine shots and held the Panthers to just 32.7% shooting from the field. However, NC State won't be facing the same Pittsburgh team tonight.

"That was their first ACC game," said Lacey. "We can't come out and think Pitt is the same way. They are a better team."

First of all, the Panthers have had a go-to player emerge during league play. Jamel Artis, a versatile forward who can score inside and out, has scored 20 or more points in the eight of the team's last 15 games. He averaged 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in league play while shooting 49% from the field and 39% from 3-point range, garnering All-ACC honors.

"Artis has become a really good player in the league," said Mark Gottfried.

Gottfried added that while preparing for the Panthers he watched tape of their game against North Carolina, a dominant Pitt win.

"I watched their game against North Carolina," he said. "They just pounded them... they absolutely pounded those guys."

Pitt is also in desperation mode. The Panthers have fading NCAA Tournament hopes, having lost three straight games entering the ACC Tournament. They are going to need to make a run, a deep run, in Greensboro to reach the Big Dance. For them, it would start with knocking off the Wolfpack, and Artis sounds confident.

"I think we can win this tournament easy," Artis told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think it comes down to little things, rebounding and play defense. N.C. State beat us the first time but we have a good game plan.

"Everyone is 0-0 so anything can happen right now, and if we go there and make a good run and we make [the NCAA tournament committee] make the decision. I actually wanted N.C. State. I wanted to play them, but we have to buy into the little things like I said."

NC State also has a lot to play for. The Wolfpack aren't a definite lock to make the NCAA Tournament, at least that's the approach Gottfried is taking.

"I don't assume anything as far as the NCAA Tournament," he said. "We have to play our way into the NCAA Tournament, and if you can do that you're also playing for seeding in the NCAA Tournament."

NC State has another goal in mind... cutting down the nets on Saturday.

"We have a lot to play for," said Gottfried. "Obviously there is a championship on the line, and we'd like to have a chance to compete for that.

"I walk in here everyday and I look up here and I see ACC championship banners... we're here to win championships. Our guys get to play for a ring, play for an opportunity to cut the nets down... we have to play very well to do that."

"We're trying to get a ring come Saturday," added BeeJay Anya. "That's the main goal. That's the one award I want."

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