Notebook: Pack Prepares For The Tigers

No. 14 NC State (15-4, 4-2) faces Clemson (14-5, 3-3) in a huge ACC contest for both teams.

Saturday's matchup will be the 135th meeting between NC State and Clemson with the Wolfpack holding an 93-41 lead in the series. This will mark the third straight game between the Wolfpack and Tigers that has been played on Clemson's home court.

Herb Sendek's squad has won seven of the last eight meetings with Clemson, including last year's single meeting at Clemson. Last season marked the first since 1954-55 that the two teams had not played at least twice in a season. NC State has won the last four games against Clemson in the RBC Center, and had won six straight overall before falling to the Tigers at Clemson in 2003-04.

NC State has posted a 3-2 record in its last five games at Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum. However, the victory/defeat margins have been very small.

Last year's 10-point win by the Wolfpack at Clemson was the largest margin in the last five games played between the two teams in Clemson. In nine of the last 10 games between the two teams on Clemson's home court, the margin has been 10 points or less. The margin has been five or less in six of those contests.

In the last 11 games between NC State and Clemson, the Wolfpack has attempted 284 three-point shots - an average of almost 27 per game. Herb Sendek's squad has connected on 109 of those attempts for a 38% mark in those contests and has gained 42% (327 points) of its scoring from behind the three-point arc.

The Pack posts a 4-5 record in games at Clemson under Herb Sendek. In the four NC State wins, the Pack has shot .521 (49-94) from three-point range. In the five losses, the tally stands at just .222 (28-126).

After averaging close to 10 three-pointers made per game, NC State has struggled from behind the arc in the last three outings, connecting on just .250 (15-60) in those three contests, two of which have been losses.

In the three games prior to that streak, the Pack had shot .554 (41-74) on threes.

Senior forward Ilian "Shoush" Evtimov has played in five career games against the Tigers of Clemson and has reached double-figure scoring in four of them (he scored nine points in the other game). For his career, Evtimov has averaged 12.6 points on 55% shooting (16-29) against Clemson and has shot 63% (12-19) from behind the three-point arc. He's connected on 19-21 (91%) of his free throw attempts and has pulled down an average of 7.4 rebounds in those five games, almost four more than his career average.

NC State fell for the first time at home this season on Wednesday, losing 65-83 to Seton Hall. That was the Pack's largest margin of loss since dropping a 24-point contest to eventual national champion North Carolina last season. The loss was also the largest non-conference home loss for NC State under Herb Sendek.

NC State shot just .375 from the field, it's lowest mark since the loss to Iowa (.340) on November 30. The team was outrebounded by 14 and shot just .267 from behind the three-point arc. The Wolfpack has dropped four games this season, but the loss was the first to a non-ranked opponent. In fact, State's previous eight losses had all been to ranked opponents (dating back to last season).

One of the Wolfpack's team goals for 2005-06 is not to lose back-to-back games.

In the Jan. 18 loss at top-ranked Duke, NC State scored 52 of its 68 points (76%) in the paint. The Wolfpack, which entered the game averaging almost 10 three-pointers made per game, shot just 2-11 from behind the three-point arc, but had a monster game inside from center Cedric Simmons, who finished with a career-high 28 points, nine rebounds and seven blocked shots.

The Pack's usual long-distance threats - Engin Atsür, Tony Bethel and Ilian Evtimov - combined for just six points in the contest. Three days later, however, in the win over Wake Forest, Simmons was sidelined with foul trouble and played just 14 minutes. Although he still managed to score nine points (six from the charity stripe), the Pack got just 46% (38 of 82) of its points in the paint. In that game, Atsür, Bethel and Evtimov combined to score 42 points.

For the season, the Wolfpack is scoring 34% of its points on three-pointers, 40% in the paint.

The Wolfpack has gotten killed on the boards in its last two outings, as Seton Hall outrebounded the Pack by 13 on Wednesday night (41-27) and Wake Forest posted a whopping 18 rebound advantage (15 in the first half) last Saturday. The last time the Wolfpack had been so soundly outrebounded as against the Deacons was on December 17, 2002, when Gonzaga posted 61 caroms to State's 35 in a 69-60 Zags win. NC State had not been outrebounded by such a large margin and WON the game since January 13, 1971, when Duke out-boarded the Pack, 55-36, but NC State won 93-89.

For the season, the Pack is down 0.9 in the rebounding column and has been outrebounded eight times.

NC State has now posted the same lineup in the last 13 games. That marks the longest streak of the same starting lineups since the 2002-03 season, when the same lineup started 30 straight games. Only two other league teams, Boston College and North Carolina, have started the same lineup in as many consecutive games this season.

NC State's current lineup is made up of senior Tony Bethel and junior Engin Atsür at guard, seniors Cameron Bennerman and Ilian Evtimov at forward and sophomore Cedric Simmons at center. Those five players have combined to play 397 games in their careers.

For the season, NC State's starters are accounting for 75% of the team's scoring.

Despite out-shooting and out-rebounding the nation's then-top-ranked team, NC State still fell short at Duke on Wednesday, Jan. 18. NC State has now shot better than its opponent 12 times this season, but the Duke game marked the team's first loss when doing so. The Wolfpack shot 52% to Duke's 45% in the contest, connecting on two more field goals. The game marked the eighth that the Pack has shot over 50% this season (first time in a loss).

The Blue Devils held State to just two three-pointers, the lowest mark for NC State against an ACC team since hitting just one against the Blue Devils on 2/22/03.

The game marked the third consecutive that NC State shot over 50%, marking the first time since the 1991-92 campaign that NC State has shot over 50% in three consecutive regular season ACC games.

The Wolfpack dropped a notch in the AP poll after last week's loss at top-ranked Duke and win over Wake Forest and now ranks 15th. NC State is 14th in this week's coaches' poll.

NC State has now been ranked in the AP top 25 for nine 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 second-highest 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.

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