Notebook: Pack Prepares For The Deacs

No. 21 NC State (15-4, 4-2) faces Wake Forest (14-15, 2-13) in a huge game for the Wolfpack.

The NC State-Wake Forest rivalry is the oldest series for the Wolfpack, dating back to the 1910-11 season. The two squads have faced each other a total of 218 times over 96 years, and NC State leads the overall series 126-92.

The Pack holds an 87-54 advantage of games played in Raleigh, and also holds a 13-7 edge when the two teams have faced off on a neutral court. Wake Forest has emerged victorious 31 times in the 57 games played in Winston-Salem (31-26).

Wake Forest swept the Wolfpack in the regular season last year, before NC State came back to win in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. With the win earlier this season in Raleigh, the Wolfpack has now won five of the last seven match-ups against Wake, but has lost 13 or the last 15 contests played on the Deacons' home court.

Prior to NC State's first meeting with on January 21, the Wolfpack's largest halftime deficit in a game all season had been three points in the loss at Iowa. Prior to the first Wake game, the Pack had trailed just one other time (NC State trailed at home against Georgia Tech by one and came back to win - in the other two losses at the time, UNC and Duke, the Pack had led at the half).

NC State had trailed by as many as 13, twice in the first half against Wake Forest and the Deacons' five-point lead at halftime was the Pack's largest halftime hole of the year at that point. The Wolfpack shot .583 after the break and held Wake to just .368 from the field to come back and win by 10.

The Wolfpack's 37 free throws made in the contest was a school record.

NC State posted a 10-point win over Wake Forest in the meeting earlier this season, despite being outrebounded by a whopping 18 (by 15 in the first half). The last time the Wolfpack had been so soundly outrebounded 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.

The Wolfpack out-boarded the Deacons by one (31-30) in last year's win in the ACC Tournament, but in the two regular season losses to Wake was outrebounded by 69-51. In fact, before the Wolfpack's one-rebound lead in last year's tournament win, Wake Forest had outrebounded NC State in five straight games.

NC State finally got a much needed break in its schedule this week, with six days off between the games with Boston College and Wake Forest. Since Christmas, the most days NC State has had between games has been three.

The Wolfpack won't play its first ACC Tournament game until Friday, March 10 - giving NC State just two games in 14 days.

The break comes at a good time for the Pack, as Ilian Evtimov continues to recover from a foot sprain and Cameron Bennerman is rehabbing a pulled hamstring.

NC State has now played six extra innings this season - going into double-overtime three times - twice on the road. Fortunately, the Wolfpack was able to emerge victorious from two of those contests.

The Wolfpack was up 10 in the second half at Clemson and 15 in the second half against Miami, but ended up winning both games by nine points. NC State trailed Boston College for most of the game until the 6:43 mark in the second half and went up as much as six.

This marks the first time in school history that the Wolfpack had three double (or more) overtime games and the first time since 1988-89 campaign that the Wolfpack has played more than one double overtime game in a season.

Saturday's game marked the first home overtime game for NC State under Herb Sendek (and the first since 1995-96). The Wolfpack has not won an overtime game at home since the 1984-85 season.

Tony Bethel's 19-point performance in the win at Virginia Tech was not only one of the best of his career, but it also helped the Wolfpack achieve something as a team. NC State now has five players averaging double-figures this season.

The Wolfpack's top-five scorers now range from Bethel's 10.0 points per game to Cameron Bennerman's 13.5 points per game, a difference of only 3.5 points between No. 1 and No. 5.

NC State and Maryland are the only two ACC teams with five players currently averaging in double figures heading into this weekend's games.

The double- overtime loss to 11th-ranked Boston College on Saturday marked the first time all season that NC State had posted back-to-back losses. One of the Wolfpack's team goals this season was that if the team did lose (obviously a bigger goal is not to lose!), never to lose back-to-back games.

Prior to Saturday, NC State had accomplished that goal. The squad's five previous losses have all been followed by wins and all three previous conference losses had been followed by double-digit wins. The margin of victory in the games following NC State's three previous conference losses had been 16.7 points before the two-point double-overtime loss to the Eagles.

The Wolfpack followed the loss at then-No. 25 UNC (69-82) with a 78-60 win at then-No. 15 BC. After falling to then-top-ranked Duke (68-81), NC State won 92-82 over Wake Forest. And following the squad's loss at Georgia Tech (68-71), State thrashed Florida State, 86-64. The win over Florida State marked the Wolfpack's largest margin of victory over an ACC opponent since Feb. 2, 2003, when the Pack defeated Clemson, 78-56.

NC State has not finished the season without back-to-back losses was 1973-74.

With just one game remaining in the 2005-06 regular season, NC State has posted 21 victories. That marks the most regular season wins for NC State since the 1987-88 campaign, when Jim Valvano's squad posted a 23-6 mark in the regular season (24-8 overall).

The Wolpack has now posted its third consecutive 20-win season and the fifth in the last seven years. The win over Florida State on Feb. 15 brought the Wolfpack to 20 wins in the fewest games since the 1973-74 season, when the Pack opened at 20-1.

With at least two games left to play, NC State has tied the win total of the Pack's last two seasons. (NC State advanced to the Sweet 16 last year) and needs two victories to tie the best tally ever under Herb Sendek (23-11 in 2001-02).

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