NC STATE VS. DUKE
Saturday's matchup will be the 226th meeting between NC State and Duke, with the Blue Devils holding a 130-95 lead in the series. The series is the second-longest in Wolfpack basketball history, dating back to the 1911-12 season.
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. In 2005, the Pack fell to No. 5 Duke, 74-86, in the RBC Center and Duke did not visit the Wolfpack's home court last season.
Duke had won 13 straight games over NC State prior to the Pack's 2003 upset and has won 24 of the last 27 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).
PACK FACES FOURTH RANKED TEAM
In just its 18th game of the season, the Wolfpack will face its fourth ranked opponent when Duke comes into the RBC Center.
NC State is 0-3 against ranked competition this season - losing to No. 25 Virginia in Charlottesville by five (62-67), to 10th-ranked Alabama (75-82) and to No. 17 Clemson (76-87).
LOWE EARNS FIRST ACC VICTORY
The road is a not a friendly place for a college basketball coach, especially one who is competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. First-year Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe, however, garnered his first ACC road victory in just his second try (the Wolfpack lost to Virginia in Charlottesville on Dec. 3).
Lowe is the first Wolfpack coach since Press Maravich to earn his first ACC road victory in just his second try. In 1964-65, Maravich lost his first conference game on the road to Wake Forest, then defeated Maryland.
Despite the fact that Duke is an ACC team and a school that is just 20+ miles away, only two of the players on the current Wolfpack roster have ever seen action against the Blue Devils.
Engin Atsür, whose status for Saturday's game is still up in the air, has started and played five games against Duke, while Gavin Grant has played in three and started none.
PACK TAKES A BREATHER
Not only has the Pack had a week off between the Wake Forest and Duke games, but the win over the Demon Deacons was almost like a vacation for some Wolfpack players - not in terms of the intensity of the game, but in terms of the minutes they played.
Ben McCauley was in for 28 minutes - his lowest total in 15 games. Brandon Costner was in for 28, lowest in seven games. Gavin Grant? Tied for second-lowest of the season. The reason? Sidney Lowe played 11 players in the contest - the highest total since November 24, when nine players saw action.
Senior Bryan Nieman got the majority of the extra minutes with 22, but football player Darrell Davis played six and Braxton Albritton, Chad Williams and Justin Clark were all in for one key minute at some point during the game.
Junior Gavin Grant opened the season as the Wolfpack's leading scorer, averaging 16.6 points in NC State's first nine games. In the next five games, however, as he adjusted to his role as point guard, that average went down to 11.2 points per game (including the only two games of the year when he did not reach double figures).
The last three games have been a different story for the Bronx, NY, native. Grant has averaged 22.7 points in the last three outings, posting three straight 20+ games against Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest.
It marks the first time a Pack player has gone over 20 points in three straight games since Grant's former teammate Julius Hodge did so in 2003-04. It marks the first time a State player has accomplished that against three ACC teams since Anthony Grundy posted three consecutive 20-point games against Clemson, Georgia Tech and North Carolina in 2002-03.
One reason Grant's scoring may have increased so dramatically may be his shot selection. He has shot 68% (28-41) from the field in those three contests after shooting 42% (70-166) in the 14 previous games.
SHOT SELECTION SOLID
NC State posted its second highest shooting percentage of the season in the win over Wake Forest last Saturday - connecting on .607 from the field. The Wolfpack actually shot .682 in the second half of the 14-point win. The Wolfpack now ranks second in the league in field goal percentage with a .507 mark.
Four Wolfpack players are currently shooting 53% or better from the field (Ben McCauley, Engin Atsür, Dennis Horner and Trevor Ferguson) and four of the five starters are shooting over 49%.
McCauley currently ranks third in the league with a .614 mark. NC State has shot 50% or better from the field as a team in nine of its 17 games.
HORNER TURNS THE CORNER
One of the bright sides to the injury to Engin Atsür has been the emergence of freshman Dennis Horner.
Horner has started six of the 11 games that Atsür has missed, averaging 9.5 points as a starter as opposed to 4.9 off the bench. But in the last two games (versus No. 17 Clemson and at Wake Forest), Horner has caught fire. He scored a career-high 14 points against the Tigers and followed that with a dozen against Wake Forest. Horner has shot 82% (9-11) from the field in the last two contests, 83% (5-6) from three-point range.
He's dished out four assists in those two games and hasn't turned the ball over while averaging 29.5 minutes.
FELLS IS SWELL
Sophomore Courtney Fells started off the win at Wake Forest running the point for the Wolfpack.
Although by game's end, he wasn't at that position any more, he had posted a career-high 20 points. Fells shot 4-9 from behind the three-point arc in the contest, 8-15 from the field overall.
TOP SCORERS PLAY FOR PACK
NC State is one of only two Atlantic Coast Conference schools that currently has three players ranked in the top-13 in the league scoring stats.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Costner currently ranks seventh with 16.6 ppg, while sophomore Ben McCauley is eighth with the same average, but has scored one less point. Junior Gavin Grant is 13th with a 16.1 ppg average.
The Wolfpack has two players ranked in the top 12 in the league in the individual rebounding stats - Costner (5th, 7.8) and McCauley (12th, 6.6).