PACK OPENS ACC PLAY WITH ROAD TEST AT VIRGINIA TECH
NC State, winner of its last six games, will open its 62nd ACC basketball season Saturday afternoon at Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack (10-3) have won five straight over the Hokies and have won the last two games in Blacksburg.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. ACC PLAY IS HERE
Saturday’s contest at Virginia Tech is the 63rd ACC opener for the Wolfpack, who is 35-27 all-time in ACC openers. The Pack has won three of its four conference openers under Mark Gottfried, featuring victories over Maryland (2012), Boston College (2013) and Wake Forest (2014). In all, NC State has started four of the last five seasons with a 1-0 ACC record. NC State has never opened conference play against Virginia Tech and Saturday’s game will be the earliest the two teams have seen each other as league opponents.
2. HE SCORES 29 AND IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE A BIG DEAL
After NC State’s victory over Northeastern on Tuesday, Mark Gottfried commented how Cat Barber scored 29 points and in the postgame interview on the radio the subject never came up. The Wolfpack has come to expect standout performances from the 6-2 junior, who is leading the ACC in scoring (23.1 ppg) and is third in assists (5.15 apg). Barber, a native of Newport News, Va., is the only player in the country averaging at least 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
3. CONTINUING SUCCESS ON THE ROAD
NC State has played two true road games so far this season and the Wolfpack won both contests. The Pack won 65-46 at USF and 73-59 at Missouri in December, becoming one of just three ACC teams to earn multiple non-conference road victories (Wake Forest had three and Miami had two). Dating back to last season’s triumph at Louisville, NC State has won five of its last six road games.
4. CALEB’S WINNING SHOTS
While it’s true that Caleb Martin is 6-for-26 shooting over the last three games, the 6-7 sophomore has made big shots that have lifted the Wolfpack to recent wins. Against Northeastern, the Wolfpack and Huskies were tied at 57 late in the game when Martin drained a pair of 3-pointers to help NC State to a 72-66 win. On Dec. 22, NC State led UNCG 50-49 when Martin knocked down a clutch trey with 2:20 left. The Pack went on to win 58-52.
5. ‘GOTT’ THE HOKIES’ NUMBER
NC State has not lost to Virginia Tech since Mark Gottfried has been the team’s head coach. Gottfried is 5-0 against the Hokies, including a 69-53 win at PNC Arena last season and an 80-63 win in the 2013 ACC Tournament. Virginia Tech’s best chance to beat the Wolfpack in recent years came in 2013 in Raleigh, but the Wolfpack got 22 points from Scott Wood and edged the Hokies 90-86 in overtime. In NC State’s last visit to Blacksburg, T.J. Warren scored 31 points to lead the Wolfpack to a 71-64 win.
PACK IN 2015
NC State finished the 2015 calendar year with a 23-13 record in the 2015 calendar year. The Pack posted a 10-3 mark so far this season added with a 13-10 record after New Year’s Day last season. The Wolfpack won eight games between Feb. 14 to March 21.
CAT IS THE TOP SCORER
Entering ACC play, Cat Barber is the league’s leading scorer at 23.1 points per game. He also owns the league’s top two single-game scoring efforts this season. He scored 37 points against Winthrop on Nov. 27 and 33 at Missouri on Dec. 19. Barber also leads the conference this season in games with at least 20 points (8).
Cat Barber scored 27 points in the win over UNCG, his 83rd game as a Wolfpacker. The total lifted him to 1,002 career points, making him the 49th player to score 1,000 points in an NC State uniform. Barber now has 1,031 career points, good for eighth among active players (and tops among non-seniors) in the ACC.
Wolfpack fans’ chants and cheers of ‘Abuuuuuu” for Abdul-Malik Abu have become more more prevalent recently. The 6-8 sophomore forward is averaging 11.8 points and 10.8 rebounds over the last four games and enters league play coming off of three straight double-doubles. Abu, a starter in every game this season, has eight outings with nine or more rebounds.
CALEB, MAVERICK FROM LONG RANGE
Caleb Martin, much improved after shooting .305 from 3-point range last year, is currently seventh in the ACC in 3-pointers made per game (2.46). In the offseason, Martin tweaked his shooting form to keep the ball more to the right and has removed a hitch from his motion. Freshman Maverick Rowan has been the Pack’s other longrange threat, standing eighth in the ACC with 2.23 made treys per game. Martin and Rowan each have four games this season with four or more made 3-pointers.
CAT TAKING AIM
In addition to the outside shooting of Caleb Martin and Maverick Rowan, Cat Barber has recently realized he needs to be a threat from the outside. In the last five games, Barber is 9-for-22 from long range. He was 0-for-9 in the season’s first eight games.
10 WINS OUTSIDE OF LEAGUE PLAY
NC State has earned 10 non-ACC wins for the fourth time in five years under Mark Gottfried. The Wolfpack won 11 non-conference games in each of the coach’s first two seasons and won 10 in 2013-14, his third season. Last season, playing one of the most rugged non-league schedules in the nation, NC State won nine games. However, a rare early ACC game with Wake Forest last December gave NC State 10 wins before the calendar turned to 2015.
NC State has been one of the nation’s better offensive rebounding teams this season, grabbing 37.4 percent of its misses, good for 25th in the nation. The Pack has seven games with 15+ offensive rebounds and has grabbed at least 10 offensive boards in every game this season.
A ROTATION BUILT FOR POSTSEASON - ALREADY
It’s not uncommon for a team to tighten its rotation at the end of the season, as conference and national tournaments approach. NC State, however, has been forced to go with a condensed lineup, playing essentially a seven-player rotation. State’s seven main players have played 2,602 of the team’s possible 2,625 minutes (99.12%).
BEEJAY REJECTING OPPONENTS
BeeJay Anya, the current ACC leader with 2.92 blocks per game, stands second on NC State’s all-time career blocks list. He enters Sautrday with 175 career blocked shots, 32 short of the school record held by Thurl Bailey (1979-83). He swatted 91 shots last season, which was the second-highest total in NC State history. He is also the ACC’s active leader in blocked shots, four ahead of Clemson’s Landry Nnoko.
LENNARD’S THE MAN OF STEEL
Lennard Freeman, NC State’s leading rebounder, is rounding into form after missing several months of the offseason healing a fracture in his lower right leg. He had successful surgery in May, and now has a 14-inch rod inserted in his lower right leg to heal a fracture. LENNARD MAKES THE PACK GO When Lennard Freeman plays and produces, the Wolfpack usually wins. Over the past two seasons, NC State has a 16-2 record when Freeman played 24 or more minutes. In games where the junior grabs eight or more rebounds, NC State is 20-3. The Pack is 11-0 in Freeman’s career when he grabs 10 or more rebounds.