Notebook: Huge Game for State

NC State (7-3) heads on the road tomorrow to face a tough Seton Hall (8-2) squad in a huge game for both teams. Tip-off is set for 7:30 and the game is televised nationally on ESPNU.

NOTING THE PACK
• Starting point guard Farnold Degand tore his ACL against Cincinnati, and will miss the remainder of the season.
• Neither of the two players vying for the point guard job have started a college game. Javier Gonzalez has averaged 11.1 minutes in the first 10 games, while Marques Johnson has only been eligible for the last two games due to NCAA transfer rules.
• The overall series between NC State and Seton Hall is tied 2-2, and this is the Pack's first trip to Seton Hall.
• NC State is looking for its first win at a Big East school since defeating No. 9 Syracuse in 2001-02.
• Both Brandon Costner and Dennis Horner played their prep ball in New Jersey.
• NC State is third in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.389), and is a perfect 7-0 when outshooting its opponent this season.
• Gavin Grant hit two free throws in the final five seconds to give the Pack the win over Davidson, the second time this year he has won a game in the final seconds with free throws (Villanova).
• Grant is averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 rebounds over the last four games, going to the free throw line a combined 38 times.
• J.J. Hickson leads all ACC freshmen in scoring (16.8 ppg) and is third among rookies in rebounding (7.6 rpg). Overall in the ACC, he is fifth and eighth in those two categories.
• Hickson also leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.674). The next closest player is at just 55.8 percent.

NC STATE TRAVELS TO SETON HALL
After a short break for the holidays, NC State will return to road action this Thursday, traveling to Big East foe Seton Hall. NC State is currently riding a three game winning streak, and will be playing its third game in the last seven days. The Pack is also looking to improve upon its 0-2 road record this season.

Seton Hall enters the contest at 8-2 on the season, including a perfect 5-0 record in its brand new arena, the Prudential Center. The NC State game marks only the Pirates second game since December 8. Last time out, Seton Hall defeated James Madison 112-110 in overtime on December 22. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.

THE SERIES VERSUS SETON HALL
The overall series between NC State and Seton Hall is tied 2-2. The two teams split two games in Raleigh, and two at neutral sites, and Thursday's game marks the first trip for NC State to Seton Hall.

The two squads last met during the 2005-06 season, with Seton Hall coming to Raleigh and defeating No. 15 NC State, 83-65. That loss currently stands as the Pack's worse home defeat to a non-conference foe in RBC Center history.

NC STATE VERSUS THE BIG EAST
After Sunday night's 85-77 win over Cincinnati, NC State currently holds a 71-52 all-time record against teams currently in the Big East. Head coach Sidney Lowe posts a career record of 2-3 against teams from the Big East. Lowe defeated Cincinnati on Sunday, the only time he has faced a Big East opponent at home, and Villanova earlier this season. He fell at Cincinnati and at West Virginia two times last season. The last Pack win at a Big East school was at No. 9 Syracuse in 2001-02 (82-68).

LAST TIME VERSUS SETON HALL
Seton Hall came to Raleigh and defeated No. 15 NC State, 83-65, giving the Pack its worse defeat in a home non-conference game in RBC Center history. The Pack opened the game hitting just three of its first 13 shots, and fell behind 32-14 with just under five minutes to go in the first half.

NC State would close that lead to 12 points early in the second half, but could get no closer. Tony Bethel hit four three-pointers and finished with 15 points, while Cameron Bennerman added 13.

LAST TIME OUT FOR NC STATE
Playing its second home game in three days, NC State used made free throws in downing Cincinnati, 85-77, Sunday night. The Pack went to the foul line 50 times in the contest, including 37 times in the second half. NC State started the game on a 12-3 run, and never lost its lead throughout the contest.

Brandon Costner hit 6-of-8 shots and finished with a game-high 20 points, while Gavin Grant added 15, and Courtney Fells and J.J. Hickson each had 14. Late in the second half, point guard Farnold Degand tore his ACL and was lost for the season.

HOMECOMING FOR TWO
While the NC Statge players did not get to go home for the holidays because of the schedule, two Wolfpack players will be playing in their home state when the Pack travels to Seton Hall. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Costner was a McDonald's All-American at Seton Hall Prep, and calls Montclair, N.J. his hometown. Reserve sophomore Dennis Horner is from Linwood, N.J., and was a four-year starter at Holy Spirit High School.

DEGAND LOST FOR SEASON
Late in the second half in the Pack's win over Cincinnati on Sunday, starting point guard Farnold Degand was fouled in the lane and came down awkwardly on his knee. Degand suffered a torn ACL, and will miss the remainder of the season.

After sitting out the last two seasons, as a redshirt at Iowa State in 2006-07 then last year at NC State due to NCAA transfer rules, Degand started the first 10 games of the season at the point. He was averaging 6.9 points and 3.2 rebounds in 28.6 minutes a game. Degand was leading the Pack in assists (2.9) and in three-point shooting (8-of-16, .500).

FILLING THE VOID AT THE POINT
With the loss of starting point guard Farnold Degand, NC State has little time in finding suitable replacements, as the ACC schedule is a little more than two weeks away.

Freshman Javier Gonzalez appears to earn the starting job heading into the Seton Hall game. Gonzalez has appeared in all 10 games this season as the back-up point guards, and is averaging 11.1 minutes an outing. He missed all of the preseason with a torn thumb ligament, but has seen increased playing time as of late.

Gonzalez is averaging 17.7 minutes a game during the Pack's current three game winning streak, and scored a career best six points last game, including all four free throws in the final minutes.

The Pack's other option is sophomore Marques Johnson who transferred to the Pack after playing in four games at Tennessee last season. Johnson was forced to miss the first eight games of the season due to NCAA transfer rules, and suited up for the first time against Davidson. Johnson did not see playing time in either the Davidson or Cincinnati games.

The Pack may also rely on the ball handling abilities of two veteran players. When point guard Engin Atsür went down with a hamstring injury last season, NC State was without a back-up point guard. Gavin Grant moved over from his starting small forward position and started 12 games at the point, and starting shooting guard Courtney Fells spelled Grant and assumed the point in many of those games.

Coming into the season, NC State returned four starters, but was missing its four-year starter at point guard, Engin Atsür. three playes pegged as Atsür's replacement before the season, Degand, Gonzalez and Johnson, combined for only four games of college experience before the season, none at NC State.

THE ROAD NOT SO KIND
When NC State travels to Seton Hall on Thursday, the Pack will be looking to pick up its first road win of the season. The Pack dropped road contests at Michigan State (81-58) and then at East Carolina (75-69) earlier this season.

NC State coach Sidney Lowe is currently 1-4 on the road against non-conference foes during his Wolfpack career, winning at Drexel in the NIT first round last season.

The last time NC State won on an opponent's home court during the regular season was at Alabama on December 22, 2005. NC State did win three neutral court games in Orlando over Tthanksgiving weekend earlier this season, when the Pack won the Old Spice Classic.


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