PACK TRAVELS TO PITT
The NC State men’s basketball team takes on its third ranked opponent in five games when it plays at Pittsburgh Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The Wolfpack won both meetings between the two teams last season, including an 81-70 win over Pitt in the ACC Tournament.
THE STARTING FIVE
1. THE LAST TIME OUT vs. PITT
When Pitt and NC State play each other Tuesday night, it’s very likely Cat Barber will be a priority on the home team’s scouting report. Barber exploded for a then-career-high 34 points against Pitt in last year’s ACC Tournament, leading the Wolfpack to an 81-70 win. Barber was effective getting into the lane and shooting from the outside, finishing with 9-for-13 shooting and 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. Barber, who currently leads the ACC in free throws made, converted all 12 of his foul shots in the meeting last March. Additionally, NC State beat Pittsburgh 68-50 last year at PNC Arena on Jan. 3, 2015.
2. T.J. STILL HAS THE RECORD AT PITT
In 2014, NC State traveled to Pittsburgh in search of a key road win to help bolster its tournament resume. The Pack entered the game 7-9 in league play and had already lost at home 74-62 to Pitt earlier in the season. That’s when T.J. Warren delivered a performance for the ages, scoring 41 points and helping the Wolfpack secure a season-changing road win that led to an NCAA Tournament berth. Warren, who six days later would score 42 at home against Boston College, shot 16-for-22 from the floor and 6-for-7 at the foul line while also contributing four steals and three assists. The 41-point performance is the highest scoring total for an opponent in the Petersen Events Center.
3. PLAYING ELITE COMPETITION EVERY NIGHT
Competing in a conference that currently boasts 11 teams in the top 70 of the RPI, NC State is used to regularly facing the nation’s top teams. Of the Wolfpack’s eight losses, seven have come against the top 70 of the ESPN.com Daily RPI. NC State has already played five opponents in the top 50 of the RPI and three of State’s next four opponents will be added to that total. NC State owns two wins over the RPI’s top 100 (83-72 over LSU and 72-66 over Northeastern).
4. KEEP UP THE DEFENSE
On Saturday, NC State settled in to guard the nation’s second-ranked offensive team in UNC Chapel Hill. The Pack held the Tar Heels to 67 points, their lowest scoring output in a home game this season, as well as .379 shooting. The Wolfpack will need to replicate that defensive effort on Tuesday, as Pittsburgh is the nation’s sixthranked offense and is among the national leaders in field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
5. TWO OF THE COUNTRY’S BEST OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING TEAMS
NC State has established itself as a prolific offensive rebounding team, leading the ACC with 15.89 offensive rebounds per game. The Wolfpack grabs 39.1 percent of its missed shots, which ranks 11th in the nation. On the other end of the floor, Pittsburgh promises to be aggressive on the offensive glass. The Panthers rebound 39.2 percent of their missed shots, which ranks third in the ACC and ninth in the country.
WOLFPUPS GAINING EXPERIENCE
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.
Cat Barber surpassed the 1,000-point mark in December, reaching the plateau in his 83rd game as a Wolfpacker. Barber now has 1,123 career points, ranking 41st in NC State history. He needs 44 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.
CAT AT THE FOUL LINE
Cat Barber leads the ACC and ranks fifth in the nation with 125 made free throws. Barber has seven games with 8+ made foul shots and ranks fifth in the conference with an .845 free throw percentage.
PACK vs. PITT IN ACC
Pittsburgh’s first ACC contest was in January 2014 at PNC Arena, and the Panthers made a splash in their debut. Pitt defeated NC State 74-62, overcoming a large deficit in the first half. Since then, State has taken each of the last three meetings. NC State won at Pitt in 2014 (T.J. Warren 41 points) and then defeated the Panthers twice last season.
CAN SAME HOTEL BRING SAME MAGIC?
While in Pittsburgh, NC State is staying at the Westin Downtown. That’s where the team stayed during last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the Pack knocked off LSU and Villanova to earn a trip to the Sweet 16 in Syracuse.
In the middle of his sophomore season, Abdul-Malik Abu is blossoming into a force. Abu, a 6-8 forward out of Boston, has seven double-doubles in his last nine games. He scored a career-high 21 points against Florida State and then tied a career best in rebounds (14) on Saturday at UNC. In ACC play, Abu is grabbing 9.8 boards per game, ranking third in the league.
STOP RIGHT THERE
Currently on a five-game losing streak, this is the Pack’s first such streak since February 2010. It is the team’s first five-game losing streak under Mark Gottfried.
BEEJAY REJECTING OPPONENTS
BeeJay Anya, the current ACC leader with 2.78 blocks per game, stands second on NC State’s all-time career blocks list. He enters Tuesday with 187 career blocked shots, 20 short of the school record held by Thurl Bailey (1979-83).
PACK-PITT ALL-TIME SERIES
NC State is 12-2 all-time against Pittsburgh and has won the last three meetings. The Pack is 1-1 at Pittsburgh.
IN FOR CALEB
Cody Martin made his first start of the season in Satuday’s game, in place of his twin brother. Cody totaled 10 points and seven rebounds and was the main defender on UNC’s Marcus Paige, who finished the day 1-for-9 shooting. It was Cody’s fourth career start.
LENGTH AND (LESS) WIDTH
BeeJay Anya is one of the largest players in college basketball. He’s actually trimmed down considerably, having lost nearly 75 pounds since enrolling at NC State in 2013. But it’s his wingspan that sets him apart. He has a measured wingspan of 7-9, the longest wingspan recorded for a non-7-foot player in the NBA Draft Express database for basketball prospects. Only 7-6 Mamadou N’Ddiaye (UC-Irvine) has a longer listed wingspan.
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 16-6 record when Freeman played 24 or more minutes. In games where the junior grabs eight or more rebounds, NC State is 20-5. The Pack is 11-0 in Freeman’s career when he grabs 10 or more rebounds.
OUR TEAM IS ON THE FLOOR
Due to unforeseen circumstances, NC State has played playing the entire season with a seven-player rotation. State’s seven main players have played 3,617 of the team’s possible 3,650 minutes (99.09%).
WAITING IN THE WINGS
NC State has plenty of help for next year wearing street clothes on the bench. In addition to injured redshirt junior wing Terry Henderson (11.7 ppg at West Virginia in 2014), the Pack has Torin Dorn and Dennis Smith ready to suit up next fall. Dorn, sitting out after transferring from Charlotte, was the Conference USA Freshman of the Year after scoring 12.0 ppg for the 49ers last year. Smith, from Fayetteville, is the nation’s topranked point guard and No. 4 overall recruit in the 2016 class. He enrolled at NC State for this semester to rehab a torn ACL with NC State’s medical staff.