Notebook: Pack Looks To Bounce Back

NC State (12-2, 1-1) looks to rebound from a tough conference loss to in-state rival North Carolina, as the Wolfpack travels to Boston College (11-3, 0-2).

NC State has faced Boston College just three times in school history, but has never managed to pull out a victory. The two squads met at the Boston Garden Invitational on Dec. 20, 1967, with BC winning 72-55 at that neutral site.

The two teams traded home-and-home games in 2003 and 2004, with the Eagles winning 93-81 in Raleigh (1/16/03), and edging the Pack in overtime, 66-65, in Chestnut Hill (1/20/04).

This will mark the first meeting between the two teams as conference opponents.

NC State is in the middle of a two-game stretch of road games versus ranked opponents, as the Pack is heading north to take on Boston College just three days after falling to No. 25 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Only one road team has won a game in Atlantic Coast Conference play this year (No. 1 Duke won at Wake Forest on Sunday).

Starting with the Dec. 30 game against George Washington, NC State is playing six ranked teams in nine games, with three (UNC, BC and Duke) on the road. This will mark the first time that the Wolfpack has faced ranked opponents on the road in back-to-back games since the 1998-99 season, when the Pack played at No. 21 Clemson on Jan. 5 and then at No. 5 Maryland on Jan. 10. Unranked NC State lost both of those contests.

The Wolfpack fell to Number 18 in this week's Associated Press poll after its loss to No. 25 North Carolina. The Pack ranked 13th heading into that game, which tied as the second-highest under Herb Sendek ( the Wolfpack was ranked as high as 12th by AP for a week last season and was listed at 13th in February of 2004 for a week after defeating top-ranked Duke.

The No. 13 ranking tied as the second-highest for NC State since December of 1986, when the Pack was ranked 11th.

The concept of a 'team without stars' is serving the Wolfpack well this season, as the team posted its best start in 17 years.

Seven different players have led the team in scoring this season (in 14 games). Only 3.7 points separates the team's top scorer and the team's seventh scorer. No Wolfpack player ranks among the top 20 in the league in scoring. Seven different players have hit 36 or more field goals but none have hit more than 55. Eight different players are shooting 43% or better from the field. Four different players have led the team in rebounds so far this season and four players are averaging 3.6 or better per game (with no player averaging over 6.9 per game).

Six different players have dished out more than 20 assists in 2005-06.

Moving the ball to the most open player is a signature of the NC State offense. NC State has four 20+ assists outputs this season and is averaging 17.4 assists per game, the third-best mark in the ACC.

The Pack is way in front of the rest of the league in terms of percentage of assisted field goals. NC State posts an assist on 68% of its field goals made, while the next highest mark in the ACC is .653 by North Carolina.

A signature of the Wolfpack offense is also the 'pass before the pass' - as many made shots are preceded by at least three passes.

The Wolfpack ranks second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio with a 1.32 mark. (Next opponent Boston College leads the ACC in that category with a 1.40 mark).

Six different Wolfpack players have 23 or more assists for the season and NC State has posted a positive assistto- turnover ratio in 11 of 14 games this season.

After leading the nation for several weeks, NC State has slipped in the national field goal percentage defense rankings, but still leads the ACC. The Wolfpack is allowing its opponents to shoot just .375 from the field.

The Wolfpack held its first nine opponents to under 40% from the field, but four of the last five foes have shot better than that mark, with UNC shooting a season-high .532.

In the last five games, the opposition is shooting .435. The Wolfpack held UNC Greensboro to a season-low 42 attempts from the field.

NC State also leads the ACC in scoring defense with a 59.7 mark and ranks second in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense at .294.

The Wolfpack has held eight of its 14 opponents to less than 60 points this season (two to less than 50 points). UNC's 81 points was the highest by a Pack opponent this season.

NC State is currently leading the ACC in blocked shots with an average of 5.86 per game. The Wolfpack finished last season ranked seventh in the ACC with just 4.5 per game and averaged just 2.2 blocks in 2003-04.

Cedric Simmons is currently the number- two shot blocker in the ACC, averaging 2.86 per game. Andrew Brackman has 19 blocks this season (1.4 per game).

One of the biggest factors behind the Wolfpack's success this season has been the improving health of senior guard Tony Bethel. Bethel's ability to push the ball and penetrate on offense and his smothering defense has seemed to improve on a nightly basis of late.

NC State posts a 23-6 record over the past two years when Bethel is in the starting lineup. He was the leading scorer with a season-high 20 points versus UNC Greensboro on January 3, tying a careerhigh with eight field goals made (he shot 8-9 from the field in that contest). He scored 13 against UNC, hitting three of five three point shots.

Bethel has valiantly battled back from a severe groin tear suffered in last year's ACC Tournament. He spent the summer rehabbing, but missed the first month of practice and was slowed in the early season. He has started the last eight games and has played 29 or more minutes in four of the last five contests. Bethel was the spark that ignited the Pack in the win over Miami in the ACC opener. He nailed a career-high five three-pointers - including four in under six minutes in the first half.

Last season, Bethel was the squad's fourth-leading scorer during ACC play (10.0 ppg) and his sharp-shooting was a key in the Pack's seven regular season league victories.

Bethel missed eight complete games with a variety of physical problems last season. His bout with physical problems continued late in the season when he suffered a groin tear in the first game of the ACC Tournament. He missed the next four contests and was able to play just two minutes in the loss in the Sweet 16.

Graduate student Ilian Evtimov became the 38th 1,000-point scorer in school history in the Pack's win over Alabama on December 22. He's the seventh player to reach that milestone under Herb Sendek's tutelege.

Evtimov now boasts 1,057 points for his career, which ranks 34th in school history. He is tied for sixth in school history in three-pointers made (170), ninth in three-point attempts (436).

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