Notebook: Pack Looks to Rebound

NC State (4-2) looks to rebound from a tough loss against No. 10 Michigan State by defeating in-state rival East Carolina (3-5) in Greenville.

• NC State is a perfect 17-0 all-time against East Carolina. With all the previous games played in Raleigh, this will be NC State's first ever trip to Greenville.
• Courtney Fells was named MVP of the Old Spice Classic, tying his career-high of 21 points against No. 20 Villanova.
• Hickson leads all ACC freshmem in scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg).
• Hickson had a career night in his college debut. Shooting 12-of-12 from the field, his 31 points were the most in ACC history for a freshman in his college debut.
• Gavin Grant is just 3 points shy of 1,000 career points.
• The players replacing departed point guard Engin Atsür played a combined four college games entering the season, zero in a NC State uniform.
• Starting point guard Farnold Degand has just nine turnovers in 185 minutes this season, and ranks seventh in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (2.00).
• One of the point guards, Javier Gonzalez, has only been available to practice since the beginning of November due to a torn ligament in his thumb.
• A second player vying for time at that position, Marques Johnson, will sit out until mid-December due to NCAA transfer rules.

NC State will make its first-ever trip to Greenville, N.C., when East Carolina plays host to the Wolfpack on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Wolfpack has been off since a November 28 contest at No. 10 Michigan State, and will be playing its fifth consecutive game away from Raleigh.

The game will be broadcasted by Time Warner Cable, Channel 24 in Raleigh.

NC State owns a perfect 17-0 record in the overall series with East Carolina, with the Pack's average margin of victory 22.2 points. Only three games have been decided by less than 10 points, including last year's seven point Wolfpack win which tied as the closest in the series (1974-75 season).

This will mark the first game between the two teams in Greenville, as all previous 17 matchups have been in Raleigh.

Down by as many as 15 points in the first half, NC State used a solid team effort in the second half and came away with a 64-57 win over East Carolina on December 28, 2006.

After turning the ball over 11 times and allowing ECU to connect on 53.6 percent of its shots in the first half, the Pack went into the lockerroom down 36-29. NC State came out in the second half with a 13-6 run to tie the score at 42-42.

It wasn't until a Brandon Costner three-pointer at 9:25 that NC State held its first lead. That was one of three second-half three-pointers Costner would connect on. For the half, NC State outscored ECU 35-21 thanks to turning the ball over just two times, and allowing the Pirates to hit just 33.3 percent.

NC State will be more than eager to get back to action when it travels to East Carolina on Saturday, as the Pack has not played since its November 28 loss at No. 10 Michigan State. NC State was the last ACC team to tip off the season back on November 15, but then NC State had its first six games of the season in a total of 14 days. The busiest past of the schedule was three games in four days at the Old Spice Classic, and its trip to Michigan State was the fourth game in seven days.

NC State's schedule will still be spread out over the next couple of weeks due to finals, as NC State hosts South Carolina State on Dec. 15 and then Davidson on Dec. 21. But business picks up around the holiday break, with the Pack having only one day off between games two different times before the new year.

Senior Gavin Grant is closing in on 1,000 career points, as he enters the East Carolina game with 997, and is just three points shy of becoming the 40th player in NC State history to score 1,000 points during a career. Grant is currently seventh on the ACC's active players career scoring list.

Another couple of players could come close to that same mark this season, as sophomore Brandon Costner has 682 career points, and junior Ben McCauley has 602 career points.

Coming into the season, NC State returned four starters, but was missing its four-year starter at point guard, Engin Atsür. The Pack had three candidates to replace him, but one (Javier Gonzalez) missed all of preseason camp with a torn thumb ligament, and a second player (Marques Johnson) will have to sit out until December due to NCAA transfer rules.

T hat left redshirt-sophomore Farnold Degand to handle the position, and Degand has not disappointed thus far in starting all six games at the point. Degand is averaging 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds, but more importantly he has 18 assists to only nine turnovers in averaging 30.8 minutes an outing. He is currently seventh in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (2.00).

Over the last three games, Degand is averaging 9.7 points and 4.0 assists. Degand scored a career-high 14 points in the win over South Carolina, and hit three-of-four three-pointers in scoring 11 points at Michigna State.

Degand's back-up, Gonzalez, has also provided steady play, with five turnovers in 52 total minutes. The two point guards have taken care of the ball, of NC State's 89 turnovers on the season, only 14 have come from the two points guards.

Six games into the season, NC State has had trouble holding onto the ball compared to its opponents. In five of those games, NC State has more turnovers than the opposition, and in the other contest the two squads had the same number. NC State is last in the ACC in turnover margin, at a margin of -5.17 a game (89-58). The most turnovers an opponent has had this season was when both Villanova and Rider had 11.

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