Notebook: Pack Looks to Rebound

NC State (1-1) heads into the 2007 Old Spice Classic looking to rebound from a tough home loss to the University of New Orleans. First up for the Wolfpack is tomorrow's opener against Rider (2-1). Tip-off is set for 2:30 and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

NC State starts a five-game stretch in games played away from Raleigh, when the Wolfpack heads to Orlando to take part in the 2007 Old Spice Classic being held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

NC State will start off first round competition against Rider on Thursday at 2:00 p.m., with the game being televised on ESPN2. The Pack will then face either South Carolina or Penn State on Friday, with a game time of either 10:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.

The Pack's final game will be on Sunday, and will be against one of the other four teams in this year's field: Central Florida, George Mason, Kansas State or Villanova.

New Orleans' T.J. Worley banked in the go-ahead three-pointer with just 1.7 seconds left, as No. 21 NC State lost its first game of the season to New Orleans, 65-63, Sunday in Raleigh. Down one with 14 seconds left, Gavin Grant drove the length of the court and converted a layup with 8.3 seconds remaining. UNO quickly inbounded the ball, and after guard Bo McCalebb's penetration was stopped, Worley collected the loose ball and banked in the winning shot to give NC State its first loss at home in November in 26 games.

Freshman J.J. Hickson recorded his first career double-double with game-highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Grant added 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

NC State and Rider will be facing off for the first time in the history of the two programs. The Pack does hold an 11-3 advantage all-time over teams from the Metro Atlantic Conference, recently defeating Marist, 69-62, in the NIT last season.

Thanksgiving on the Road: When NC State hits the road to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando for the Old Spice Classic, it will be the first time the Pack competes in a tournament around Tthanksgiving since NC State went to the Alaska Shootout in 1993.

The last time NC State competed in an eight-team in-season tournament, the Pack won the BCA Invitational in Raleigh in 2001, defeating Prairie View A&M, San Jose State and East Carolina to open that season.

The most recent eight-team tournament on the road for NC Sate was the 1998 Puerto Rico Holiday Classic, when the Pack got wins over Middle Ttennessee State and #23 Oklahoma, but fell to Ohio State in between those two games.

Two games into the 2007-08 season, the NC State defense is leading the charge for the Pack. NC State is currently ranked first in the ACC in scoring defense (56.0 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.325), three-point field goal percentage defense (.222), and also blocked shots (8.0 bkpg).

The Wolfpack held William & Mary to just 47 points on 29.1 percent (16-55) shooting in the season opener. That was the second-lowest point toal in the Sidney Lowe era (47 vs. Delaware State) and the lowest opponent field goal percentage in 68 games.

While the defense has limited the opponent's production thus far, the NC State offense ranks last in the ACC averaging 64.5 points a game. The Pack has produced 57.4 percent (74 of 129) of its points inside the paint, and has connected on 56.7 percent (38-67) of its two-point field goal shots. But it has been the outside shooing that has slowed the Wolfpack offense.

Through two games, NC State has hit just 25.0 percent (10-40) of its three-point attempts. Gavin Grant is the only player hitting better than 33.3 percent, as Grant has hit 3-of-6 three-pointers thus far.

But the good news is that NC State is not the only team misfiring from long range in its first two games. The Pack is currently leading the ACC in three-point field goal percentage defense, allowing its two opponents to hit only 8-of-36 (22.2 percent).

A lot of people predicted freshman J.J. Hickson would have an immediate impact on the Wolfpack program, and a week into the Pack's season his numbers are proving lots of people right. Hickson currently leads the ACC in scoring (26.5 pp) and in field goal percentage (.733), and is also tied for third in rebounding (10.0 rpg).

The freshman center started his career with a bang, shooting a perfect 12-of-12 from the field to score a game-high 31 points, almost half of NC State's total in a 66-47 win over William & Mary. Hickson also added seven rebounds and played 30 minutes as the Pack's starting center. Only two other players in the 54-year history of the league have been perfect from the field with as many attempts as he had against William & Mary. Brad Daugherty (UNC) hit all 13 of his attempts against UCLA in 1985, while Scott Williams (UNC) was also 12-of-12 against UVA in 1990.

Hickson's 31 points marked the highest tally in conference history for a freshman in his first college game. Two NC State players held the previous record of 29 points, Ivan Wagner in 1995 and Ishua Benjamin in 1994. The rookie's name is already linked to one of the greatest players in collegiate history, as Hickson's 31 points in his first game in the Wolfpack uniform were the most for a Pack player in his varsity debut since David Tthompson had 33 points against Appalachian State as a sophonore in 1972 to start his illustrious career.

Hickson came close to breaking the single game record for points by a Pack freshman, just four points shy of tying Ernie Myers (35 versus Duke in 1983).

In terms of overall scoring, Hickson scored the most points in a single game for a Pack player since Julius Hodge had 31 in the 2003 ACC Ttournament, and his 31 points was an RBC Center record for a State player.

On Sunday against New Orleans, Hickson recorded his first career double-double with game-highs of 22 points and 13 rebounds.

Hickson also set the ACC record for consecutive field goals made to start a career with a total of 14 (all 12 against W&M and the first two against UNO). Cherokee Parks (Duke) had the previous conferecne best, making his first 11 attempts in 1991.

For his efforts this past week, Hickson was named ACC Rookie of the Week, national freshman of the week, and was the 'Star of the Day' by following the William & Mary game.

Even with four starters returning from last year's team, NC State fans were checking their programs during the season opener to see who was on the court for the Wolfpack.

A total of five players made their NC State debuts in the William & Mary game. Sophomore point guard Farnold Degand and freshman center J.J. Hickson each started in their first career game with the Wolfpack. Another freshman, Javier Gonzalez, was the back-up point guard and played 12 minutes. Forwards Tracy Smith and Simon Harris each got in late in the contest as well.

Last season's entertaining run through both the ACC Ttournament and the NIT brought back many memories for Wolfpack fans of another NC State squad using the ‘Survive and advance' mentality. This season, NC State will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1983 National Championship.

The Pack used three last-minute wins in the ACC Tournament just to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 1983, then was shipped out west and put together a storied run that culminated with Lorenzo Charles dunking home the winning basket at the buzzer in the title game. Current head coach Sidney Lowe was the Pack's starting point guard that season. That team will return for a reunion for the Clemson game on February 16. Check for feature stories thoughout the season.

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