Notebook: Pack Opens ACC Play

NC State heads to Virginia tomorrow as the Wolfpack will face the Cavaliers in the ACC opener for both teams. Tip-off is set for 3:30, and the game is televised nationally on FSN.

  • Engin Atsür has never missed a game for the Wolfpack since having to sit out the first four games of his freshman year - he's played in 100 straight.
  • NC State has started the same five players in each of the first five games.
  • Three Wolfpack players - Gavin Grant, Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley - rank in the top five of the ACC in minutes played per game.
  • Gavin Grant was named the ACC Player of the Week last week.
  • Every Wolfpack starter has posted a career-high in terms of scoring this season.
  • Sidney Lowe is one of just three coaches in NC State history to win each of his first five games as head coach.
  • NC State is opening conference play on the earliest date since the 1967-68 campaign.


  • Head Coach Sidney Lowe, Assistant coach Pete Strickland and Director of Operations Quentin Jackson all played their prep ball at DeMatha for legendary coach Morgan Wootten.
  • Assistant coaches Pete Strickland and Larry Harris played college ball together at Pitt.
  • Associate head coach Monte Towe was on Norm Sloan's coaching staff that recruited Sidney Lowe to come to NC State.
  • Five members of the Wolfpack staff (Lowe, Jackson, Towe, Video coordinator Levi Watkins and administrative assistant Justin Gainey all played for the Wolfpack, but none played together. Those five members represent teams from four decades (70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s).

    NC State holds a 78-51 advantage in the all-time series with Virginia, which dates back to the 1912-13 season. The Wolfpack won the only matchup last year, winning at the RBC Center, 64-62. Last season marked the first time in 60 years (1945-46) that the Wolfpack and Cavaliers had not met at least twice in one season.

    NC State has won eight of the last nine games against Virginia in Raleigh and has lost 14 of the last 17 games in Charlottesville. However, the Pack won three of its last four games in University Hall.

    NC State posts a 31-22 record in ACC openers. The Wolfpack is jumping into ACC action early this season as Sidney Lowe's squad travels to Virginia to compete in the first league game to be played in the Cavaliers' new arena. This year will mark the earliest NC State has started conference play since the 1967-68 campaign (that year, Norm Sloan's squad played Wake Forest on Dec. 2).

    NC State did play against conference teams as early as December 1 in the 1970s, but those games were part of the Big Four Tournament, which did not count into the teams' league records.

    NC State played Virginia 10 times during Sidney's Lowe's days as a player, posting a 3-7 record against the Cavaliers. As a freshman, he scored 11 points in 23 minutes in his first game against UVa, a 64-56 Wolfpack win. However, NC State did not win another game against the 'Hoos until the end of his senior campaign - losing seven in a row.

    NC State dropped both regular season contests against Virginia in 1982-83, losing 80-88 at home and 75-86 on the road. However, the Cardiac Pack won when it counted, defeating UVa in the ACC Tournament finals in Atlanta, 81-78, and then knocking off the fourth-ranked Cavaliers 63-62 in the West Regional finals in Ogden, Utah to earn the right to play in the Final Four.

    Lowe played 39 minutes in the ACC Tournament contest, scoring 18 points. He added eight points and played the entire 40 minutes in the win over Ralph Sampson and the Cavaliers in the NCAA Tournament game.

    The Wolfpack got the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge off to a good start by representing the league well - winning 74-67 over the Michigan Wolverines on Monday, Nov. 27.

    NC State has posted a 5-3 mark in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since 1999-2000. The Wolfpack has won all four of its home games in the challenge and has gone 1-3 on the road, including a win at 19th-ranked Purdue in 1999-2000.

    Sidney Lowe is just the third coach in NC State history to have started his career on the Wolfpack bench with a 5-0 record.

    Harry Hartsell began his Wolfpack coaching career in 1916-17, winning five straight contests before suffering a loss. Twelve coaches and 80 years later, Herb Sendek opened his tenure at NC State with five wins before a loss in 1996-97. Ten years later, Lowe enters his sixth game with the same mark.

    No Wolfpack coach has ever gone 6-0 to open his first year with the program.

    NC State currently boasts three of the top five minutes leaders in the ACC. All five regular starters are averaging 29.6 minutes per game or more (including Engin Atsür, who played just six minutes in the win over Michigan). One other players averages over 20 minutes (Bryan Nieman) and one other averages over 15 minutes per game (Dennis Horner). That is basically the end of the Wolfpack's depth.

    Going into the season, NC State's lack of depth indicated that injuries or foul trouble could land the Wolfpack in trouble. When Atsür strained his hamstring six minutes into Monday night's game, Sidney Lowe played just six other players for remainder of the contest. The most the Wolfpack has gotten into a game this season was nine (against Gardner Webb and Delaware State).

    With NC State's lack of depth this season, injuries and foul trouble are problems the team will have to avoid with a vengeance (the Pack's bench is in reality just two deep). Last week, freshman center Bartosz Lewandowski suffered a partial tear of his ACL and will be out for a significant period.

    But the Pack suffered an even bigger blow on Monday night when the team's only senior, point guard Engin Atsür, suffered a hamstring strain just six minutes into the game. Atsür, who is among ACC leaders in field goal percentage, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, will be listed as day-to-day as he rehabs from the injury.

    Junior Gavin Grant has often been the spark that has lit the Pack in this early season. He currently leads the team in scoring with 18 ppg - the fifth-best mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He's also pulling down five rebounds per game and his 36 minutes per game ranks second in the ACC.

    Against Michigan, Grant was definitely the catalyst. When Engin Atsür went down with a leg injury, Grant came in and played the point for the next 31 minutes that he played. He scored 15 points and dished out seven assists in the contest, as well as going 8-9 from the charity stripe.

    Grant was named the ACC Player of the Week following his performances against Valparaiso and Gardner Webb. He posted a career-high 25 points and 12 rebounds against Valpo and then had 23 points versus Gardner- Webb.

    NC State has used a balanced scoring attack among its five starters to open the season 5-0. All five starters are averaging double figures, and four different players have been the high scorer in the five games thus far (Courtney Fells is the only starter who hasn't led the Pack in scoring yet).

    In addition, four different players have scored 20 points or more at least one time this season and two players have done so twice.

    About the only thing unbalanced about the team scoring this year is the difference between the starters and the bench. The Pack's five starters have accounted for 90% of the scoring, while the reserves have chipped in with 10%.

    The Wolfpack's career scoring high's are changing on a daily basis just five games into the season. Brandon Costner played in just five games last year, so setting a new career high wasn't that suprising - however, scoring 20 points in just his second game (versus Delaware State) this season was.

    Ben McCauley set a career high in the first game of his sophomore season, chipping in a game-high 26 points versus Wofford. Sophomore Courtney Fells had a career-high 13 points in the win over Valparaiso.

    However, two wily veterans have also posted new scoring bests this season. Gavin Grant scored 25 points against Valparaiso in his 68th career game. And the Wolfpack's lone senior, Engin Atsür, who had played in 95 contests prior to this season, posted a new career-best with 24 points in the season opener, then topped that with 26 points against Gardner-Webb.

    Just five games into the 2006-07 season, two Wolfpack players have posted three double-doubles. Junior Gavin Grant set career-highs with 25 points and a dozen rebounds in the win over Valparaiso on Nov. 21.

    Redshirt freshman Brandon Costner decided to one-up his teammate. He posted 11 points and 11 boards in the win over Gardner Webb on Nov. 24, then came back with 17 points and 11 boards in the next game versus Michigan.

    Not only is senior guard Engin Atsür the most experienced player on the 2006-07 Wolfpack squad, but he could finish his career ranked as the most experienced player in school history.

    Atsür has now started 95 games during his career, tied as the 10th-best mark in school history. With the start against Valpo on Nov. 21, he passed his current head coach, Sidney Lowe, on the career list.

    Atsür needs just six more starts to move into the top five in school history. His former teammate Julius Hodge holds the school record with 125 career starts.

    At one point in his career, Atsür had started 78 consecutive games before missing a start last season after being late to a meeting. He has been a regular in the Wolfpack starting lineup since the ninth game of his freshman campaign.

    With 3,176 career minutes in 100 games under his belt, Atsür has averaged 31.8 minutes per contest for his career. If he averages even close to that amount as a senior, he will move way up the list in that category as well.

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