RIVALRY RENEWS TONIGHT
An in-state rivalry is renewed when the NC State men’s basketball team travels to Wake Forest Sunday night for an 8 p.m. game on ESPNU. The two long-time rivals have split a pair of meetings each of the last three seasons, with the home team winning each time. Each team enters the game seeking its first ACC victory.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. RENEWING A CLASSIC RIVALRY
While much is made of NC State’s rivalry with UNC Chapel Hill, the Pack has actually played against Wake Forest and Duke much more often. Sunday night’s game at Wake Forest will be the 242nd meeting all-time between the two schools, which are located 104 miles apart. NC State owns a 139-102 advantage (NC State has also played Duke 241 times and UNC-CH 228 times). The Pack and Wake Forest have split the last six meetings, but the Wolfpack has won eight of the last 11.
2. CAT DADDY PUTTING UP MONSTER NUMBERS
Not only is Cat Barber (referred to affectionately by Mark Gottfried as ‘Cat Daddy’) leading the ACC in points per game (22.7) and 20-point performances (10), but he has filled the stat sheet consistently all season for the Wolfpack. Barber, the 6-2 point guard who was a preseason second team All-ACC pick, is the nation’s only player averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. He is second in the nation in minutes played (38.87), having sat for just 1:49 of game time over the past seven games combined. Barber has played the entire contest six times this season.
3. WE WILL SEE THEM AGAIN
Under the conference’s current basketball scheduling structure, NC State is paired with Wake Forest and UNC Chapel Hill as permanent home-and-home partners. The Pack and Demon Deacons will meet again Saturday, Feb. 13 at PNC Arena. Currently, the Pack will play those two rivals twice each year in addition to facing two other league opponents twice. This season, NC State is set to play Duke and Florida State twice each. NC State is the ACC’s only team scheduled to play both UNC Chapel Hill and Duke twice this season.
4. PACK ATTACKING THE GLASS
The Wolfpack has outrebounded 12 of its 15 opponents this seaosn and ranks 15th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (38.5%). Louisville entered Thursday’s game second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, but it was the Wolfpack that controlled the glass with a 19-12 edge in offensive rebounds. In total, NC State pulls in 43.0 rebounds per game, the highest total in the ACC. The Pack is sixth in the ACC in rebounding margin (+6.7)
5. GAINING THE EXPERIENCE FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS
The experience gained this season by the young Wolfpack squad could pay dividends for the program’s future. According to the popular basketball metrics website KenPom.com, the Wolfpack stands as the 305th most-experienced team (or 46th least-experienced) in the country. The team, when minutes played are weighted by each player’s eligibility class, averages just 1.27 years of experience. The national average is 1.70 and the average experience of the 15-team ACC is 1.48.
LAST THREE TRIPS TO THE JOEL WERE BATTLES
In NC State’s last three trips to Wake Forest, each game went down to the wire. Last year, the Wolfpack erased a 25-point halftime deficit but fell 88-84. In 2014, Wake edged State 70-69 on a controversial final bucket. Three years ago, Wake won at the Joel 86-84. NC State’s last win at Wake Forest was a 76-40 rout on Jan. 12, 2012.
Cat Barber surpassed the 1,000-point mark in December, reaching the plateau in his 83rd game as a Wolfpacker. Barber now has 1,072 career points, ranking 44th in NC State history. He needs 95 points to tie Lorenzo Brown for 40th place. Barber is eighth among active players (and tops among non-seniors) in the ACC in career scoring.
WE WON’T SEE MANY TURNOVERS SUNDAY NIGHT
Sunday’s contest features two teams who don’t force a lot of turnovers. State is 16th in the country in taking care of the ball, committing miscues just 15.1 percent of the time. However, the Pack is 297th in the nation in defensive turnover percentage (16.1%), meaning both teams are unlikely to force turnovers.
Wolfpack fans’ chants and cheers of ‘Abuuuuuu” for Abdul-Malik Abu have become more more prevalent recently. The 6-8 sophomore forward is averaging 11.7 points and 10.5 rebounds over the last six games. Abu, who has started every game this season, owns six double-doubles this year.
CALEB, MAVERICK FROM LONG RANGE
Caleb Martin, much improved after shooting .305 from 3-point range last year, is currently fifth in the ACC in 3-pointers made per game (2.53). In the offseason, Martin tweaked his shooting form to keep the ball more to the right and remove a hitch from his motion. Freshman Maverick Rowan has been the Pack’s other long-range threat, standing eighth in the ACC with 2.20 made treys per game.
BOTH TEAMS GETTING TO THE LINE
If you are setting a DVR for Sunday’s ESPNU telecast, make sure to change the options to record past 10 p.m. NC State and Wake Forest are both in the top 30 in FTA / FGA, which measures ability to get to the free throw line. NC State is 29th in the nation, while Wake Forest is 18th.
10 WINS OUTSIDE OF LEAGUE PLAY
NC State won 10 non-ACC games 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.
OFFENSIVE BOARD WORK
NC State has been one of the nation’s better offensive rebounding teams this season, grabbing 38.5 percent of its misses, good for 15th in the nation. The Pack has nine games with 15+ offensive rebounds and has grabbed at least 10 offensive boards in every game this season. NC State pulled in 21 offensive rebounds at Virginia Tech and 19 vs. Louisville.
BEEJAY REJECTING OPPONENTS
BeeJay Anya, the current ACC leader with 2.93 blocks per game, stands second on NC State’s all-time career blocks list. He enters Sunday with 181 career blocked shots, 26 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, five ahead of Clemson’s Landry Nnoko.