Notebook: State Heads to Chapel Hill

NC State (14-11, 4-8) looks to complete a sweep of North Carolina (23-4, 9-3) tonight in the Dean Dome. Tip-off is set for 9:00, and the game is televised on RLF.

  • The Pack is looking for its first season sweep of the Tar Heels since 2002-03, and only the fourth sweep since the 1975-76 season.
  • The Pack shot 66.7 percent (32-48) against Virginia Tech, its best shooting performance in an ACC game since 1982.
  • Brandon Costner recorded his seventh double-double of the season against Virginia Tech - the second-best in the ACC
  • The Pack ranks second in the league in field goal percentage at .495.
  • NC State's conference opponents have the best league record of any other league team's opposition, winning .558 of the time.
  • Ben McCauley's .601 field goal percentage ranks second in the ACC.
  • NC State will play five of its last eight regular season games on the road.
  • Senior Engin Atsür became the 39th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark at Virginia Tech. He now has 1,061 points for his career - the 11th-best mark among current ACC players.
  • Brandon Costner leads all ACC rookies in both scoring and rebounding.
  • Four NC State players rank in the top seven of the ACC in minutes played.

    Wednesday's meeting will mark the 210th between NC State and North Carolina in the series that dates back to the 1912-13 season. The Wolfpack has faced just two other teams, Duke and Wake Forest, more times than the Tar Heels.

    UNC holds a 134-75 lead in the series and has won 22 of the last 31 meetings between the teams. Before this seasons win by NC State, the Tar Heels had won the six previous matchups. Priot to that stretch for UNC, NC State won four straight during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, marking the most consecutive wins for State over Carolina since the 1970s.

    NC State will be looking to sweep the Tar Heels in the regular season for the first time since the 2002-03 season, and for the fourth time since 1975-76.

    When the Pack makes the short bus trip to North Carolina on Wednesday, the Pack will be facing its seventh ranked foe of the season, and the third on the road.

    NC State has already claimed two top-25 wins this year, defeating then-No. 16 Virginia Tech and then-No. 3 North Carolina in back-to-back games in early February.

    Those victories marked the first time since 1990-91 that NC State had won back-to-back games versus ranked foes in the regular season.

    All five starters scored in double figures for NC State, as the Pack upset No. 3 North Carolina 83-79 on February 3. Sidney Lowe downed the Tar Heels in his first career meeting, and set a new school record as the highest ranked opponent ever defeated by a first year head coach.

    The Pack was up 38-36 at the half after Gavin Grant hit a lay-up at the buzzer, and then came out red hot in the second-half connecting on 13-of-17 (76.5 percent) of its shots, the best shooting in a half since 1987 (77.8 percent against Maryland on Feb. 25, 1987).

    Courtney Fells went for a career-high 21 points, including four three-pointers. Engin Atsür recorded his first career double- double with 12 points and 10 assists.

    It seemed whatever shot the Wolfpack threw up in Sunday's win over Virginia Tech went right into the basket. The Pack hit shots as the shot clock expired, three-pointers while tripled-teamed in the corner, and for the Hokies it just seemed that everything was going to go in against them.

    NC State made 10 of its first 11 shots of the game, and to extend its halftime lead, hit 11 of the first 12 shots in the second half.

    For the game, NC State connected on 66.7 percent (32-of-48) of its shots. That shooting percentage is the best in an ACC game for NC State in over 25 years (76 percent against Maryland in 1982).

    NC State not only scored plenty around the basket, but went 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) from three-point range. That percentage was the highest in an ACC in school history for NC State, and was also the first time this season the Pack reached double digits in three-pointers made.

    Thanks to its sizzling shooting performance on Sunday, NC State swept the season series against Virginia Tech.

    Back on January 31, NC State led from start to finish and became the only team this season to pick up a win in Blacksburg, 71-59.

    Since Virginia Tech has joined the ACC, NC State has won four of the five games and leads the overall series 32-10.

    The Pack's season doesn't seem that long ago. In fact the two teams are facing off for the second time in only an 18 day span, the quickest turnaround NC State has faced since playing the Tar Heels on back-to-back days in teh regular season back in 1991.

    Last time out, the Pack faced Virginia Tech for the second time this season only 19 days from the first match-up. Prior to the game against the Hokies, the least amount of days for a regular season matchup for NC State and a conference foe since the ACC went to an unbalanced schedule was 21 against UNC in 2005.

    NC State has played the ACC's most difficult conference schedule so far this year. NC State's ACC opponents have a combined 82-65 record in league play so far this year for a .558 winning percentage.

    Including Wednesday's game at North Carolina, the Wolfpack will have played the top third of the league (UNC, UVA, BC, VT) a combined seven times. On the flip side, the Pack has played the bottom three teams (WF, Mia., FSU) only a combined two times. NC State is 3-3 against the top four teams, but 1-5 versus the rest of the conference.

    The ACC played a balanced schedule for its first 51 years, but when the league expanded for the 2004-05 the league began an unbalanced schedule. We are in the second year of playing five teams twice and the other six teams in the league once.

    With Engin Atsür in the lineup, not only do you get a calming influence over the offense, but the other Pack players get to play their natural positions instead of handling the point guard duites.

    Since Atsür returned from missing 12 games, the Pack's other players have all seen their production increase. It took Atsür a little while getting back into game shape, but last week appeared to be the return of senior point guard that many Wolfpack fans have grown accustomed to.

    Atsür averaged 17.0 points and 5.5 asssits as the Pack downed Virginia Tech and fell to Maryland last week.

    Atsür had a game-high 20 points and dished out seven assists against the Hokies. He was 8-of-10 from the field, and 3-of-4 on his three-point attempts.

    Agianst Maryland, he had 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists. His point totals in those two games last week were the highest since his return.

    Sophomore Courtney Fells drove to the hoop late in the Pack's loss at Miami, and was fouled hard and landed on his lower back. Already bothered by a nagging hip injury, Fells has been slowed over the last couple of weeks, but has gutted it out and continued to remain in the Pack's lineup. After being limited to a season-low 19 minutes and scoring just two points against Maryland, Fells was a major factor in the Pack's win over Virginia Tech on Sunday. Fells scored 14 points, on an impressive 6-of-9 shooting.

    But more impressive than his offensive performance was the work he did on defensive end. Fells was assigned to Zabian Dowdell, the ACC's sixth-leading scorer, and limited the guard (who scored 33 at UNC the previous game) to just nine points.

    Sophomore Ben MCauley was a rebounding machine against Maryland, setting a new career high with 13 boards. Most of McCauley's work was done on the offensive end, as he had eight offensive boards - the ninth-highest total in a single game in school history.

    For the game, McCauley helped NC State to 16 offensive boards, the second-highest total of the season.

    On the season, McCauley ranks 10th in the ACC in rebounding (6.6), and eighth in offensive rebounds (2.64).

    NC State currently ranks second in the ACC in field goal percentage with a .495 mark. The Wolfpack has shot .536 (391-730) in its 14 wins this season, .407 (237-582) in its 11 losses.

    NC State shot .765 from the field in the second half of the Feb. 3 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 12 games this season, and has shot better than 60% four times, including an amazing 66.7 percent in the home win over Virginia Tech.

    All five Wolfpack starters are shooting 45.8% or better for the year, while Ben McCauley currently ranks second in the league with a .601 mark.

    Nobody in the ACC doubted the Pack had a strong starting five, and recently those players have been living up to their billing. Against then-No. 3 North Carolina and in Sunday's upset of Virginia Tech, all five Wolfpack starters reached double figures. Although this wasn't the first time this season that has happened. it was certainly the first time it had happened against such talented opponents.

    All five starters have scored in double-digits five times now this season - against the Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Mount St. Mary's and Delaware State. Of course, all five 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.

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