Notebook: Pack Looks to get Back on Track

NC State (11-7, 1-4) hosts Virginia (11-6, 3-2) tonight as the Wolfpack is still looking for its first ACC home win. Tip-off is set for 9:00, and the game is televised nationally on RLF.

  • Senior Engin Atsür hopes to be back in action versus Virginia after missing 12 of the last 13 games with an injury. The first game against Virginia was his first game out.
  • The Wolfpack is hoping to avoid its first 0-4 home start in ACC play since 1966-67.
  • Brandon Costner leads all ACC rookies in both scoring and rebounding.
  • Center Ben McCauley ranks fourth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • Four Wolfpack players - Gavin Grant, Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells- rank in the top five in the ACC in minutes played.
  • Five Wolfpack players have played the entire 40 minutes in at least one game.

    NC State holds a 78-52 advantage in the all-time series with Virginia, which dates back to the 1912-13 season. The Wolfpack dropped the contest earlier this season - Virginia's first ACC game in the new Jones Arena - but 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 15 of the last 18 games in Charlottesville.

    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.

    After 18 games this season, the Wolfpack has faced four ranked opponents. NC State is 0-4 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). The Pack fell to 14th-ranked Duke, 56-79, on Saturday.

    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.

    Not only did NC State have a week off between the Wake Forest and Duke games, but the win over the Demon Deacons on January 13 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.

    GRANT FOR 20
    In three of the last four games, Gavin Grant has scored more than 20 points - including three straight 20+ games against Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest. It marked the first time a Pack player had gone over 20 points in three straight games since Grant's former teammate Julius Hodge did so in 2003-04. It also marked 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 shot 68% (28-41) from the field in those three contests after shooting 42% (70-166) in the 14 previous games.

    NC State posted its second highest shooting percentage of the season in the win over Wake Forest on Janury 13 - connecting on .607 from the field. The Wolfpack actually shot .682 in the second half of the 14-point win.

    The Wolfpack now ranks third in the league in field goal percentage with a .499 mark. Three Wolfpack players are currently shooting 54% or better from the field (Ben McCauley, Engin Atsür, Dennis Horner) and three of the five starters are shooting over 49%. McCauley currently ranks third in the league with a .599 mark.

    NC State has shot 50% or better from the field as a team in nine of its 18 games.

    One of the bright sides to the injury to Engin Atsür has been the emergence of freshman Dennis Horner. Horner has started seven of the 12 games that Atsür has missed, averaging 8.9 (62) points as a starter as opposed to 4.9 off the bench. But in the last three games (versus No. 17 Clemson, at Wake Forest and versus No. 14 Duke), 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 85% (11-13) from the field in the last three contests, 86% (6-7) from three-point range. He's dished out four assists in those three games and hasn't turned the ball over while averaging 28.3 minutes.

    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.

    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 eighth with 16.8 ppg, while sophomore Ben McCauley is 10th at 16.2. Junior Gavin Grant is 13th with a 15.6 ppg average.

    The Wolfpack has two players ranked in the top 10 in the league in the individual rebounding stats - Costner (4th, 7.9) and McCauley (10th, 6.5).

    Three of the five largest increases in scoring outputs in the ACC from last year to this year belong to Wolfpack players.

    Sophomore Ben McCauley boasts the league's largest increase, going from 2.1 ppg to 16.2 ppg - an increase of 14.1 points per contest. Brandon Costner is second with a 14.0 ppg increase (granted, Costner played in just five games last season), while Courtney Fells is fifth with a 9.7 ppg jump.

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