Starting Fast

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State enters the Sweet Sixteen as one of the hottest teams left in the tournament, having won eight of their last ten games.

NC State enters the Sweet Sixteen as one of the hottest teams left in the tournament, having won eight of their last ten games. Over that stretch the Wolfpack has defeated three top 15 teams (Villanova, North Carolina, and Louisville) and all three were away from PNC Arena.

However, the two losses... they weren't even close. The Pack was defeated by 16 at Boston College on February 28th and lost by 24 to Duke in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals. NC State trailed Boston College 11-2 just three minutes in and was down 11-3 to Duke at the first media timeout.

Really, the Wolfpack was never in either game, and that is what stands out to the players about the two losses.

"We came out sluggish," said junior guard Trevor Lacey. "We came out slow... not really attacking."

"I think slow starts," added Lennard Freeman. "We don't want to have slow starts. We had a slow start against LSU, but we overcame that.

"It's the Sweet Sixteen. Everybody here is obviously good so we feel like we can't have a slow start. You can't have a slow start because you may not be fortunate enough to overcome it."

NC State has stressed all week the importance of starting fast against Louisville. Not just because that wasn't what they were able to do in their last two losses but because the Cardinals are likely going to be playing with an edge because of the Wolfpack's road win earlier this season.

"I think a team you beat you have to approach different, as far as your energy," said Lacey. "They are going to come out and try to even the score and beat you. They are going to come out with a chip on a shoulder. We have to match their intensity."

"When you lose to a team and you play them again, you're not going to make the same mistakes," Freeman added. "They are a completely different team without Chris Jones, so we're trying not to look at it like we beat them before."

The fast start doesn't have to be offensively because at times you're going to struggle making shots. What was really disappointing in the Duke and Boston College losses was the ease that both teams scored.

Defensively is where Lacey believes the Pack has to be locked in early.

"If we come out in attack mode defensively... if we guard people, our offense will come," he said. "If we guard people and don't let them score or get extra possessions, we'll like our chances at the end of the game."

Sure, NC State defeated Louisville on Valentine's Day, but that doesn't mean anything right now.

"This one is way more important than the first one was," said Lacey.

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