NC STATE VERSUS MIAMI
Saturday's matchup will mark only the fifth meeting between NC State and Miami. The Wolfpack leads the overall series 3-1. NC State won both games against the Hurricanes last season - winning by 12 (81-69) in Raleigh on Dec. 18 and then fighting to an 86-77 double-overtime win in Coral Gables on Feb. 8. The two squads met just once in 2004-05, Miami's first year in the ACC. The Wolfpack dropped that one, 66-67 on the road. The only other game was played in 1939-40, with the Pack winning 46-35.
PACK RUNS OUT OF GAS AT GEORGIA
When the Pack came out against Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, it looked like the team that had defeated third-ranked UNC just three days earlier. After shooting 76% in the second half against the Tar Heels, NC State came out and shot 59% in the first frame against the Yellow Jackets. But that hot streak ended after the halftime break in Atlanta. NC State managed to shoot just 33% from the field in the second half, not scoring at all for almost eight minutes and going 11:17 without a field goal. Prior to that scoring drought, the Wolfpack's longest this season had been 5:55 in the game against Virginia in Raleigh. NC State went 7:32 without a field goal at one stretch in that game.
TOP ROOKIE PLAYS FOR PACK
In a league that boasts several outstanding candidates for ACC Rookie of the Year, NC State's Brandon Costner has made an emphatic statement that he should be considered for the honor. Costner was this week's ACC Rookie-of-the-Week following his performances against Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Costner posted his sixth double-double of the season in the win over the Tar Heels, double the total of any other league rookie and the second highest total among all ACC players. He tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds in the contest and continues to lead ALL league rookies in scoring (16.3 ppg, 9th in ACC) and rebounding (8.0 rpg, third in ACC). Costner has scored in double figures in 21 of 22 games this season to lead the team. He broke a 19-game double-figure scoring streak (the third-longest in the ACC at the time) when he scored just nine points at Virginia Tech. Costner etched his name into the Wolfpack single-game record books on December 30 - posting his third career double-double ... BEFORE HALFTIME!!! He went on to finish with career-highs of 27 points and 19 rebounds in the win. Those 19 caroms set an NC State freshman record and was the most for a Wolfpack player regardless of class since Todd Fuller had 21 on Nov. 25, 1995. That was also the highest rebounding total for an ACC player this season. Costner's point total tied as the fourth-most ever for a Pack rookie.
NC State turned a lot of heads when it knocked off 16th-ranked Virginia Tech on its home court on January 31. Those heads started spinning when Sidney Lowe's Wolfpack followed that with an upset of third-ranked North Carolina on Feb. 3. Those victories marked the first time since 1990-91 that NC State had won back-to-back games versus ranked teams in the regular season. That year, Les Robinson's Wolfpack squad defeated No. 23 Georgia Tech in Atlanta (79-73) on Feb. 3 and then knocked off ninth-ranked North Carolina in Reynolds Coliseum on Feb. 6 (97-91). It marked the first time the Wolfpack has knocked off top 20 teams in consecutive games (regular season or not) since 1984-85, when Jim Valvano's squad defeated No. 13 UNC (85-76) on Feb. 16, then won over No. 6 Duke, 70-66, on Feb. 20.
SHOOTING THE LIGHTS OUT
Although NC State could manage just 33% from the field in the second half of the Georgia Tech game on Tuesday night, the Wolfpack has been shooting well in the last three contests. Sidney Lowe's squad currently ranks third in the league with a team mark of .494 from the field. In the last three games (wins at Virginia Tech and versus UNC and a loss to Georgia Tech), NC State has shot 54% (75-139) from the field. The Wolfpack has shot .526 in its 13 wins this season, .402 in its nine losses. NC State shot .765 from the field in the second half of last Saturday's win over third-ranked UNC, the highest shooting percentage for the Wolfpack in a half in 20 years. The last time an NC State squad shot that well in a half was on Feb. 25, 1987, when the Pack shot .778 (14-18) against Maryland in an 85-72 win. The Wolfpack has shot 50% or better in 11 games this season, and has shot better than 60% three times. Two Wolfpack players are currently shooting 53% or better from the field (Ben McCauley and Dennis Horner) and four of the five starters are shooting 45% or better .McCauley currently ranks second in the league with a .608 mark.
WITH VICTORY AND DOUBLES FOR ALL
The win over North Carolina wasn't the first time this season that every starter for the Wolfpack had reached double-figure scoring totals, but it was certainly the first time it had happened against such a talented opponent. All five starters have scored in double-digits four times now this season - against the Tar Heels, Wake Forest, Mount St. Mary's and Delaware State. Of course, all four of those games were NC State wins. The Wolfpack's five regular starters have averaged double-figure scoring totals throughout the 2006-07 campaign. Although there is still plenty of basketball left to be played, if all five were still averaging double figures at the end of the season, it would be the first time since 1977-78 that NC State has had five players average double-figures.
ATSUR MAKES A DIFFERENCE
What a difference having Engin Atsür back in the lineup has made for NC State. Although he's played in the last four games, the Pack's senior point guard has really just been back to what he considers game-shape in the last three (NC State had a week off between the Virginia and Virginia Tech games for him to take a rest). In the last three games (two of which were wins over ranked teams), Atsür's numbers have definitely been respectable. He went 7-7 from the line against UNC and tied his career high with 10 assists for the first double-double of his career. As the whole team did, Atsür struggled against Georgia Tech, shooting 1-9 - he did dish out six assists, but also turned the ball over six times against the Yellow Jackets physical press. But it's the things that don't show up on the stat sheet that has meant the most to NC State since Atsür's return. It's his calm, experienced leadership running the point. It's his willingness to throw his still-injured body to the floor after a loose ball. It's the way he can break the press late in the game. It's the way that his teammates (Gavin Grant and Courtney Fells) are both able to play their natural positions again, where they have both been more effective. Atsür started his 100th career game at Georgia Tech, becoming only the seventh player in school history to ever start 100 or more games for a career.
The numbers aren't good. The Wolfpack ranks 11th in the ACC in rebounding margin (-0.2), 11th in rebounding (33.4), and last in offensive rebounds (8.59). But somebody forgot to remind the Pack of that negative statistic in recent games. Against 16th-ranked Virginia opponents on the offensive glass this season (Gardner Webb, Michigan and Virginia) and is getting beat by almost three and half offensive boards a game (12 - 8.6).
HIT THE ROAD, PACK
After playing five of its first seven league games at home, the Wolfpack won't even need to unpack its bags in the next month. NC State is in the midst of playing five of its last eight regular season games on the road and then will head to Tampa for the ACC Tournament.
This week, NC State plays at Georgia Tech and Miami, comes home for back-to-back games versus Maryland and Virginia Teach, then goes to UNC, Florida State, comes home for Wake Forest and then ends the regular season at Maryland before heading to Tampa for the ACC Tournament. NC State has fared pretty well so far on the road in ACC games this season, posting a 2-2 mark. After losing at Virginia in early December, the Pack won its second league road game at Wake Forest and its third at Virginia Tech. The Pack lost at Georgia Tech.
FELLS IS SWELL
One of the most impressive players for NC State offensively over the last six games has been sophomore Courtney Fells. Fells has scored in double figures in each of those contests, averaging 14.8 points (89 total). In two of those contests he has scored 20 or more points, including a career-high of 21 points in the win over third-ranked North Carolina. Fells recorded his first career double-double on Jan. 24 versus Virginia, when he scored 11 points and had a career-best 10 boards. A long, lanky player, Fells silenced the sold-out crowd at Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech with a coast-to-coast dunk - he left the ground around the foulline. Against UNC he made four three-pointers.