Notebook: Tough Road Test for Pack

NC State (11-8, 1-5) travels to Blacksburg tonight to face No. 16 Virginia Tech (16-5, 6-1). Tip-off is set for 9:00, and the game is televised on Fox Sports South.

  • NC State has not played a game ouside the state of North Carolina since Dec. 23 at Cincinnati.
  • Senior Engin Atsür returned to action against Virginia last Wednesday. Atsür has played in just seven games this season due to a hamstring injury.
  • Atsür is just 11 points shy of 1,000 for his career. He is looking to become the 39th player in school history to reach that mark.
  • Brandon Costner leads all ACC rookies in both scoring and rebounding.
  • Center Ben McCauley ranks fifth 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 this season.

    NC State leads the all-time series with Virginia Tech by a count of 30-10. The Pack is 21-6 at home versus the Hokies, 5-3 in games in Blacksburg, and 4-1 in nuetral sites.

    The Pack has won two of the three meetings since the Hokies joined the ACC for the 2004-05 season, and 13 of the last 14 match-ups overall. The two squads have split the two games played at Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum since the Hokies joined the ACC.

    Last season, NC State made all eight of its free throw attempts in the final 55 seconds to come away with a 70-64 victory. In 2005, Virginia Tech held on for a one-point victory, 72-71.

    When the Pack takes to the air for its Wednesday game at Virginia Tech, the NC State players might have to pay attention to the pre-flight announcements.

    That is because NC State has not had to leave the state of North Carolina since its December 23 game at Cincinnati. Since returning from Christmas break, NC State has played seven of the last eight games at home in the RBC Center. The Pack's only road game during that time was a quick bus ride to Wake Forest.

    The flip side, however, is that the Wolfpack will be racking up the frequent flier miles in February. Four of its games that month, as well as the only regular season game during March, will all be road games, with back-to-back games at Georgia Tech and Miami and then later at North Carolina and Florida State.

    With NC State taking on No. 16/18 Virginia Tech on Wednesday, the game will mark the fifth time this season the Wolfpack has faced a ranked foe. The VT contest will be the second game (UVA on Dec. 3) on a ranked opponent's homecourt, as NC State has faced the last three all at home. NC State is 0-4 against ranked competition thus far 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 most recently fell to 14th-ranked Duke, 56-79.

    NC State started its post-Christmas break with a heavy schedule, playing a total of six games in a span of 17 days. But after the Pack's win at Wake Forest on January 13, NC State has had just two games in a 17 day span before Va. Tech. After Wake, the Pack had no mid-week game and faced No. 14 Duke on Saturday, Jan. 20. Then after the Virginia game on Wednesday, Jan. 24, the Pack was off this past weekend.

    The much anticipated return of senior point guard Engin Atsür took place last week versus Virginia.

    Atsür has missed 12 of the Wolfpack's 19 games this season because a hamstring injury. Atsür played in the FIBA World Championships over the summer and did not return to school until the first week of September. He sat out of the team's preseason skill workouts (he had basically played two complete seasons!) and battled tendinitis in his achilles throughout the preseason.

    Through the first five games of the season, Atsür was averaging 17.3 points and 35.5 minutes per game. Just six minutes into the Michigan game, however, he suffered a hamstring injury, which very well could have been caused by the original problem with the achilles, and missed the next nine games.

    Finally, on January 6, Atsür was able to get back on the court against Boston College. He came back and played a surprising 31 minutes in his 96th career start, and although he didn't connect in four shot attempts, he did manage to dish out a career-high 10 assists (to just one turnover). Although he complained that his stamina was not where he wanted it to be, it seemed that the injury was behind him. >{? The very next day in practice, however, Atsür RE-injured the leg and went on to miss three straight starts. But when the starters were announced against the Cavs, the Wolfpack fans gave Atsür the loudest ovation. He started the game back at his familair point guard spot, and had nine points in 32 minutes of action. Those were his first points since the Nov. 27 contest against Michigan, when the injury originally occured.

    NC State has dropped two straight games, in large part to its lack of offense. The Pack scored just 114 points combined (57.0 avg.) in losses to No. 14 Duke and Virginia.

    The low scoring output was directly related to shooting. NC State had its two worse shooting performances of the season, hitting just 32.7 percent (34-104) over the two games. Prior to the last two contests, the lowest the Pack had shot in a single game was 41.8 percent. The Pack also topped 50 percent nine times in the first 17 games, and twice was over 60 percent.

    Sophomore Courtney Fells has seen an increase in his production over the last three games, going for double figures in each while averaging 14.7 points.

    Fells also recorded his first career double-double last time out versus Virginia, when he scored 11 points and had a career-best 10 boards. At Wake Forest, he started the game 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.

    NC State has spread the wealth this season in regards to scoring and rebounding among its players, and that is not more evident that the fact that four different players have recorded at least one double-double this season.

    Reshirt freshman Brandon Costner leads the Pack with five double-doubles on the season, including an impressive 27 point, 19 rebound effort against UNC Wilmington. Gavin Grant has done the deed three times thus far, and Ben McCauley has two.

    Courtney Fells became the fourth player to post a double-double, when he had a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with 11 points against Virginia.

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