Notebook: Hurricanes Up Next

No. 15 NC State (18-4, 7-2) faces Miami (14-8, 6-3) tonight in a huge ACC contest for both teams. Gametime is set for 7:00 pm, and it will be televised on ESPN-U.

Herb Sendek's squad lost a heart-breaker in NC State's first-ever visit to the University of Miami last season. The Wolfpack shot 50% on three-pointers in the contest, connecting on a dozen long-distance shots, but was missed the last-gasp three by Cameron Bennerman to lose, 66-67. The Pack was outrebounded by 13 in the contest. Tony Bethel was on crutches during that contest and was unable to play.

NC State and Miami have split the two games they have played as conference opponents, while NC State posts a 2-1 overall mark in the series. Last season marked the first time the two teams had played since 1940, when the Hurricanes lost 35-46 in Raleigh.

In 2005, the Wolfpack opened ACC play in Coral Gables, losing 66-67, but won handily in this year's opener back in December (81-69). The Wolfpack has nailed a dozen three-pointers in each of the last two games against Miami, while holding the Hurricanes to just five in each contest. Four of the five Wolfpack players who have averaged over 20 minutes against Miami have shot over 50% from the field.

After shooting at least 50% from the field in five of its eight ACC games heading into Sunday's contest with Maryland, the lid closed over the basket for the Wolfpack. NC State connected on a season-low 30.9%. That was also the lowest shooting mark in a home game since State shot 29.9% against the Terrapins in 2001. It was the lowest mark for NC State in a win since Feb. 16, 1991 (30.6% versus UConn).

However, the Wolfpack was able to win the contest by playing tenacious defense. Maryland, which entered the contest averaging 81.7 ppg, managed just 58 points against the Wolfpack. NC State also outrebounded Maryland by a 42-39 margin.

Sophomore center Cedric Simmons ranks fourth among ACC players for most scoring improvement from last season to this season. Simmons is currently averaging 12.6 points per game, up 9.1 from his average as a freshman (3.5).

One of the Wolfpack's team goals this season is that if the team does lose (obviously a bigger goal is not to lose!), never to lose back-to-back games. So far in 2005-06, NC State has accomplished that goal. The squad's four losses have all been followed by wins (both conference losses have actually been followed by double-digit wins). The last time NC State finished the season without back-to-back losses was 1973-74.

Nobody in college basketball likes to use the "I" word, and nowhere has that word been used more frequently that at NC State in the last decade. But this season, the word "Injury" has not been used too often in association with the Wolfpack. In Herb Sendek's first nine seasons as head coach at NC State, his players missed 227 total games due to injury. Last season alone, 25 games were missed due to injuries to five different players. This season (knock on wood), the Pack has been happily healthy. Besides Brandon Costner (a freshman who has missed the last 17 games with a stress fracture in his leg but may be able to receive a medical redshirt), only one other player has missed a game due to injury (Tony Bethel versus VMI).

NC State's proverbial 'turn' in ACC play occurred last Wednesday night against Virginia - in other words, the Wolfpack reached the halfway point in ACC regular season play. NC State finished the first half with a 6-2 conference mark and now stands at 7-2.

This marks the second season that teams do not play home-and-home contests with all the other teams in the league, so the 'turn' doesn't have the same significance it used to have.

However, NC State's 6-2 mark ties as the team's best first-half mark under Herb Sendek. The Wolfpack had finished 5-3 in the first half three times under Herb Sendek (2003, 2002 and 2000).

NC State went from ranking first in the league in shooting in the conference-only stats to third, after posing a dismal .309 mark against Maryland. NC State has shot at least 50% from the field in five of its nine ACC games this season and now ranks third in the league in field goal percentage in conference games (.481). The Wolfpack still leads the league in three-point shooting (.440) in the league-only stats. The Wolfpack has shot over 50% on three's in three league games this season.

NC State posts a 4-1 league record this season when shooting 50% or better, 8-1 overall. It's only loss when hitting that mark came at then-top-ranked Duke.

NC State is known as a solid three-point shooting team, as the Wolfpack leads the ACC in three-point shooting against ACC competition with a .441 mark and ranks third in the league overall at .384. But Herb Sendek's squad is also pretty good at shooting the two. The Wolfpack ranks second only to Duke in two-point field goal percentage, with a .548 mark (358-653).

Of the nine scholarship players who are currently seeing action, all but two shoot over 50% on two-point shots (Tony Bethel shoots .417 and Courtney Fells stands at .495).

In previous seasons, the Wolfpack's statistics in its home games and road games were vastly different. This season, at least during ACC play, the Wolfpack has been fairly consistent - despite the fact that three of the four road games have been against teams that were ranked at the time (Boston College, North Carolina, Duke) and the five home ACC games have all been against unranked squads.

The Pack is shooting .463 from the field in ACC play at home and .502 on the road. At home, State is getting outrebounded by 5.0 (mainly due to WFU's 18 rebound edge) and is outrebounding the opponent by 0.5 on the road.

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