Notebook: Huge Game for State

NC State (14-12, 4-9) looks to pick up another ACC win as the Wolfpack squares off against Florida State (17-11, 5-9). Tip-off is set for 1:00, and the game is televised on RLF.

Would be the Wolfpack's second in its last 3 games, improving NC State to 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the ACC.

The Wolfpack would beat the Seminoles for the sixth straight time in Tallahassee and for the 15th time in the last 16 games of the series. State would break a streak of three straight ACC road losses and improve to 3-4 in ACC road games this season. FSU would drop its sixth straight game to stand at 17-12 overall and 5-10 in the ACC with only one regular season game remaining –next Saturday at Miami.

The ‘Noles home record would dip to 13-4 and 4-4 in the ACC.

Would be the second straight and fifth in the last six games for Wolfpack, sending State to 14-13 overall and 4-10 in the ACC with two regular season games remaining. The Pack's ACC road losing streak would stretch to four straight games. FSU wins for only the second time in the last 16 games of the series and breaks a five game-losing streak to the Wolfpack at home. The Seminoles improve to 18-11 overall, 6-9 in the ACC and snap a five game overall losing steak. Florida State records its first win since upsetting Duke on Feb. 4 in Durham and improves to 14-3 at home ( 5-3 ACC).

The Wolfpack is tied with Duke for No.2 in ACC games in field goal percentage at .477. Only North Carolina has a better shooting percentage against league competition (.486).

State shot 66.7 percent in its win over Virginia Tech on Feb. 18—its best shooting performance in an ACC game since 1982. Ben McCauley is the Pack's leading shooter at .598—second-best in the ACC.

State has three players shooting 40 percent or better from three point range this season. Although he's played in only 14 games, Engin Atsur is hitting at a .403 clip from the bonusphere while Dennis Horton stands at .463 and Trevor Ferguson at .400. Brandon Costner, who leads the Pack in 3-point attempts and field goals shoots 37 percent (45-122).

The Wolfpack is shooting .731 from the foul line in ACC games (171-234). That's third-best in the league behind FSU and Miami.

In State's upset of No. 25 Virginia Tech on Feb. 18., the Pack held the Hokies to a season-low 56 points and 38.5 percent second-half shooting. The same formula worked earlier this season in back-to-back wins over No. 16 Virginia Tech and No. 3 UNC. In those two games, the Pack surrendered an average of 69 points, .418 shooting from the field and .280 from 3-point range. Following that pair of wins, the Pack dropped three straight games and the common factor was a LACK of defense. In the three losses, opponents averaged 79.6 points (239) and nearly 50 percent shooting (.86-173) from the field, including 46 percent from the 3-point range (17-37).

The three best defensive games State has played this year were its two wins over Virginia Tech and its victory over North Carolina. However, they were also excellent shooting and rebounding games for the Pack. In the three wins, State shot a combined .600 from the field (84-140) and .500 from the 3-point arc (24-48) while outrebounding its opponents 101-75. The Pack has tied or outrebounded its opponents 12 times and has a 9-3 record. When State has been outrebounded, the Pack is 5-9.

Four NC State players rank among the ACC's top seven in minutes played. Gavin Grant has played every minute of six games this season. Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner have gone the distance in three games each with Courtney Fells never coming out in two games.

Engin Atsur has made a big difference in the Wolfpack since his return from a hamstring injury. State is 8-6 this season with Atsur in the lineup and no doubt that record would be even more impressive if the Pack's only point guard had not suffered an injury in November. What kind of difference has the native of Turkey made? He scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field and added 7 assists in the Wolfpack's upset of No. 25 Virginia Tech Feb. 18. In the upset of No. 3 North Carolina on Feb. 3, Atsur recorded his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes. The likable senior continues to recover from a serious hamstring injury that forced him to miss 12 games this season. In his last 3 games, Atsur has averaged 16.7 points (50) and 5.0 assists (15) while shooting 16-of-28 from the field (57%).

The most improved player on the NC State team is its top post player, Ben McCauley. How far has he come? Last season, the sophomore center averaged 5.5 minutes in 13 ACC games. This season, he's playing 35 minutes a contest and he's responded in a big way. McCauley is the team's No.2 scorer (15.6) and leads the Pack in shooting while running second in rebounding (6.7) and total assists (89). In his last 7 games, McCauley is shooting .651(43-of-66) from the field. He's No.2 in the ACC in field goal percentage (.598). McCauley recorded a double-double against Maryland with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Against Virginia Tech on Feb. 18, McCauley recorded 16 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 35 minutes.

Junior Gavin Grant was forced into a difficult spot when Engin Atsur was injured. The slashing shooting guard was forced to play the point and it was a tough transition, especially against higher-level competition. With Atsur back, Grant has benefited. In the last 7 games, Grant is shooting .507 from the field (36-of-71). The junior is the team's No.2 scorer in ACC games (15.5) and has shot .507 against league opponents (73-144), including 38 percent from 3-point range (14-37).

NC State is averaging an assist on an impressive 59 percent of its field goals (396-671) this season. The Pack had 23 assists on 29 field goals in its loss to Alabama in December.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Costner is the ACC's top freshman scorer and rebounder. That's quite an improvement from last season which was cut short by injury after playing in only five games. The former Parade and McDonalds High School All-American leads the Pack in scoring (16.2), rebounding (7.8) and 3-point field goals (45). Costner recorded his 7th double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds against No.25 Virginia Tech on Feb. 18.

Courtney Fells is the best athlete on the Wolfpack team and he has contributed in several ways this season. The sophomore not only leads the team in steals (26) and blocked shots (31), but he's been an occasional defensive stopper. In two games against Virginia Tech's Zabian Dowdell, Fells held the ACC's best one-on-one player to a combined 25 points. He also played solid defense in the Pack's win over North Carolina on Feb 3rd while scoring a career-high 21 points. Offensively, in his last 10 games, Fells is averaging 12.6 points (126), 3.7 rebounds (37) while shooting .485 from the field (48-99).

Dennis Horner does not shoot much, but when he does the ball usually goes in the basket. In his last 9 games, Horner has made 14-of-22 field goal attempts, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range. The freshman forward recorded a career-high 14 points vs. Clemson on Jan. 9th. However, he's scored only 10-points in his last 8 games.

State no longer relies as much on three-point shooting as in past seasons, but that does not mean the Wolfpack can't shoot 3-pointers. In its last 11 games, State is shooting .411 from 3-point range (80-192). Under Sidney Lowe, the Pack is an inside-out team. Only 33 percent of State's shots come from the arc compared to 46 percent last season.

NC State athletics contributed this report.

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