Notebook: No. 1 Duke Is Next

No. 14 NC State (14-2, 3-1) looks to move into first place in the ACC, as the Wolfpack faces No. 1 Duke (16-0, 4-0) in the nation's most intimidating college basketball environment -- Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Wednesday's matchup will be the 224th meeting between NC State and Duke, with the Blue Devils holding a 128-95 lead in the series. The series is the second-longest in Wolfpack basketball history, dating back to the 1911-12 season.

This will mark the Wolfpack's first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium in two years. NC State and Duke have played homeand- home series for each year since at least 1932 (records for previous years are sketchy as to location of games). Last year, due to ACC expansion, the Pack did not go to Cameron and this year, Duke will not visit Raleigh.

The Wolfpack has won two of the last three matchups with the Blue Devils in Raleigh, winning 80-71 against third-ranked Duke on Jan. 22, 2003, and knocking off the Devils, 78-74, when they were ranked No. 1 on Feb. 15, 2004. Last season, the Pack fell to No. 5 Duke, 74-86, in the RBC Center.

Duke had won 13 straight games over NC State prior to the Pack's 2003 upset and has won 23 of the last 26 games played in the series (NC State's only other win during that time frame was a 66-60 victory over the top-seeded Blue Devils in the 1997 ACC Tournament quarterfinals. The eighth-seeded Wolfpack then went on to defeat Maryland to advance to the championship game in coach Herb Sendek's first season).

NC State has not won at Duke since Jan. 18, 1995.

Wednesday's contest will mark the 23rd time that NC State has faced Duke under Herb Sendek. Duke has been ranked in the top 10 for each of those meetings, including five times at No. 1.

Wednesday's game against topranked Duke will mark the eighth that the Wolfpack has played against the nation's number-one team under Herb Sendek. The Pack posts a 2-5 record in those games, with three being played on the road and two on neutral courts.

NC State's last win against the nation's top-ranked team came against Duke during the 2003-04 campaign. On Feb. 15, the Wolfpack defeated the top-ranked Blue Devils 78-74 in Raleigh, breaking Duke's 18-game winning streak. The Wolfpack's last win over the topranked team on the road was on Feb. 21, 1998, when State knocked off top-ranked North Carolina, 86-72 in Chapel Hill. Since the 1980-81 season, the Pack has played the No. 1 team 19 times. NC State has won five of those contests.

With a 14-2 record heading into the game against top-ranked Duke, the Wolfpack has now tied for its best start since the 1973-74 National Championship season. The Wolfpack also started 14-2 in 1988-89 before dropping its next two contests. NC State's start is also the best under Herb Sendek. The Wolfpack's 3-1 start in ACC play ties as the best in his 10- year tenure.

After falling from 13th to 18th in last week's AP poll, NC State climbed back up to No. 14 this week after defeating No. 15 Boston College and Georgia Tech. NC State has now been ranked in the AP top 25 for eight straight weeks. That's the most consecutive weeks the Wolfpack has been in that listing since the 1988-89 campaign, when Jim Valvano's squad was in the top-25 for the entire season. The Pack's No. 13 ranking before losing at UNC on January 7 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 secondhighest for NC State since December of 1986, when the Pack was ranked 11th. NC State, which was not ranked in the preseason polls, is the second-highest ranked team in the ACC this week.

The concept of a 'team without stars' is serving the Wolfpack well this season, as the team has posted its best start in 16 years. Despite the team's success, you would be hard pressed to find many Wolfpack individuals ranking among the ACC leaders in many categories.

The Pack ranks sixth in the ACC in scoring offense, but only one player ranks among the top 25 in scoring (Cedric Simmons is 24th with 12.2 ppg).

The Pack ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage, but doesn't have a single player with enough field goals made to qualify for the league's individual rankings (the minimum is five made per game - Simmons leads the team with 4.2 per game).

State ranks fourth in the ACC in free throw percentage, yet no players have enough to qualify in that category either (2.5 made per game), even though five are shooting over 73%.

Seven different players have led the team in scoring this season (in 16 games). Four players are scoring in double figures (a fifth is just 0.1 from that tally) and only 4.3 points separates the team's top scorer and the team's seventh scorer.

NC State has posted a 14-2 record, the second-best in the league, but has yet to have a player named ACC Player-of-the- Week.

Sophomore center Cedric Simmons has been nothing short of sensational in the Wolfpack's last two games. He's shot a combined 80% (12-15) in the wins at Boston College and vs. Georgia Tech, averaging 15.5 points and seven rebounds.

Against the 15th-ranked Eagles, he scored one point in the first half, then went on a tear in the second frame, finishing with a game-high 17 points on 6-6 shooting from the field and 5-6 from the foulline. He also blocked five shots in the game against BC's highly-touted big men.

The native of tiny Supply, N.C., is leading the team in scoring (12.2), in rebounding (6.9), in blocked shots (2.9 per game for 2nd in the ACC), and posts the team's best field goal percentage (.644 would rank second in the ACC if he had enough makes per game to qualify). Simmons already ranks 10th on the Wolfpack single-season blocked shot list with 47 in 2005-06. He has posted two double-doubles (both against ranked opponents) and against Iowa he became the first player in NC State history to ever post five or more assists and five or more blocks in the same game.

Junior guard Engin Atsür has now started 74 consecutive games for the Wolfpack, a mark which ties as the second-longest streak of consecutive starts under Herb Sendek.

NC State has shot a hot .515 from the field and a hotter .524 from behind the threepoint arc in its four ACC games this season, leading the conference in both categories.

NC State shot .634 from the field in the win at Boston College, it's highest shooting percentage against an ACC team since Feb. 22, 1997, when the Pack shot .643 against Georgia Tech.

Five players are shooting at least 50% from the field in conference play.

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 .381 from the field.

The Wolfpack has held 11 of its 16 opponents to under 40% from the field. NC State has dropped to second in the league in scoring defense, now posting a 60.9 mark (Virginia Tech is holding opponents to 60.4 ppg). The Wolfpack ranks third in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense at .302. The Wolfpack has held nine of its 16 opponents to 60 points or less this season (two to less than 50 points). UNC's 82 points on January 7 was the highest by a Pack opponent this season.

NC State has moved into third-place in the ACC in blocked shots with an average of 5.81 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 2.9 per game. Andrew Brackman has 20 blocks this season (1.3 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 25-6 record over the past two years when Bethel is in the starting lineup, 9-1 this season.

Bethel has been on fired against ACC foes this season. He's leading the league with a blazing .667 shooting mark from behind the three-point arc against league competition and his 4.0 three-pointers made is also best among ACC players in the conference-only stats.

In the last four games, Bethel is averaging 14.8 points and shooting 63% (22-35) from the field, 67% (14-21) on three's. 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.

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 nine games and has played 29 or more minutes in five of the last six contests.

Bethel missed eight complete games last season 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.

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