Notebook: Pack Looks to End Skid

NC State (15-13, 4-10) returns to the hardwood tomorrow against Duke (24-3, 11-2). Tip-off is set for noon and the game will be televised on CBS.

NC State will play its final home contest of the season, when the Pack plays host to No. 7 Duke Saturday at 12:00 p.m. Seniors Gavin Grant and Cahd Williams will be honored prior to the game. NC State has lost six straight games, its longest losing streak since the 1999-00 season. The Pack has won two of the last four home games against Duke, both times with the Blue Devils ranked in the top-five. The game will be nationally televised on CBS.

Saturday's matchup will be the 230th meeting between NC State and Duke, with the Blue Devils holding a 133-96 lead in the series. The series is the second-longest in Wolfpack history, dating back to the 1911-12 season. This season marks the first time the two teams play each other twice during the regualr season since the ACC expanded.

Duke holds a 52-30 advantage in games played in Durham, including winning the last 11 meetings, and 17 of the last 18 games. The last win for the Pack in Cameron was a 77-60 showing during the 1994-95 season.

The Pack's luck at home has been different, as NC State has won two of the last four matchups with the Blue Devils in Raleigh, winning 80-71 against third-ranked Duke in 2003, and knocking off the Blue Devils, 78-74, when they were ranked No. 1 in 2004. Duke had won 13 straight games over NC State prior to the Pack's 2003 upset and has won 26 of the last 29 games played in the series. NC State's other two wins during that time frame were both in the ACC Tournament. Last season the 10th-seeded Pack knocked out seventh-seed Duke, 85-80 in overtime in the first round, and in 1997 NC State posted a 66-60 victory over the top-seeded Blue Devils in the quarterfinals.

During halftime of the Duke game, the North Carolina Breast Cancer Endowment Committee will present the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Foundation a check in the amount of $132,806 to be used in the continued efforts to fund and support breast cancer research in the state North Carolina. Between 1997 and 2001, with help from the North Carolina Community Foundation, the North Carolina Breast Cancer Endowment Committee raised and donated more than $500,000 to various North Carolina breast cancer charities and initiatives.

The decision to donate the endowment funds to the Kay Yow/WBCA/V Foundation Cancer Fund was made in January, 2008, by the Executive Committee to honor and thank Coach Kay Yow for her contributions to help the fund raising efforts of the Executive Committee and for her courageous and public battle against breast cancer, which has significantly raised awareness in North Carolina and has inspired men and women who are touched by cancer around the world.

NC State jumped out to a nine-point halftime lead, but could not hold off No. 3 Duke in Durham, falling 92-72, on January 31. The Pack played perhaps its best half of the season, shooting 57.7 percent (15-26) enroute to 46 first half points. However in the second half, the Blue Devils scored 55 points shooting 65.6 percent (21-32). Duke knocked in seven of 11 second-half three-point attempts, and shot 65.6 percent from the field overall in that half. Gavin Grant scored a career-high 26 points, and J.J. Hickson recorded his third straight double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Florida State lead from start to finish, and handed NC State its sixth straight loss, 72-62 at the RBC Center on Wednesday night. The Seminoles opend the game 12-0, and 25-6, enroute to a 32-24 halftime lead. NC State cut the lead to 34-32 with 16:32 left in the second half, and to 52-49 with 7:59 left, but never captured the lead. NC State hit all 11 of its free throws, and had just 12 turnovers, but also pulled down a season-low 23 rebounds and only forced six turnovers. Trevor Ferguson came off the bench to score a career-best 17 points hitting 4-of-5 three-pointers, while freshman Tracy Smith scored 11 second-half points.

The Pack's contest against No. 7 Duke will be the eighth ranked opponent, including fifth in the top-10, for NC State this season, which is more than any other ACC school. So far this season, the Pack is 2-5 against ranked foes, but only two of those previous games were played in Raleigh.

The Pack defeated No. 20 Villanova in the championship game of the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando, marking the Pack's earliest win over a ranked foe since a November 11, 1997, season-opening win against No. 19 Georgia. The Pack then traveled to No. 10 Michigan State the next game, and fell 81-58 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

NC State then opened its ACC schedule with three straight ranked teams, including its first two on the road. NC State fell at No. 1 North Carolina 93-62 to start its conference slate, then lost at No. 24 Clemson 70-54. The Pack then picked up its first conference win with a 79-77 defeat of No. 21 Miami in overtime. Most recently in those games, the Pack fell at No. 3 Duke 92-72, and to No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday, 84-70.

This season marked the first time since 1986 that NC State has had to face two ranked opponents in the month of November.

In Sidney Lowe's first season with the Pack, NC State posted a 3-6 mark against top-25 foes, and was 1-3 record against top-10 opponents.

Playing a ranked Duke foe is not an uncommon feat for NC State, as Saturday's meeting will be the 72nd time NC State has faced a top-10 Duke squad. The Pack is 16-55 against Duke in those previous games.

During the Pack's current six-game losing streak, the Pack has struggled on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. NC State has given up an average of 43.5 points in the second 20 minutes in those six loses, with the teams shooting 54.3 percent (89-164) from the field, and 46.5 percent (20-43) from three-point range.

Maryland scored 53 points on 20-of-27 shooting, Boston College scored 41 points hitting 13-of-23 shots, and Clemson hit 51.6 percent (16-31) of its shots enroute to 37 points. North Carolina shot 59.4 percent and scored 50 points, Virginia shot only 39.3 percent but scored 40 points, and last time out against Florida State, the Seminoles shot 50.0 percent (12-24) and posted 40 second-half points.

NC State's J.J. Hickson is making a strong case for ACC Rookie of the Year. Hickson currently leads all ACC freshmen in rebounding (8.5 rpg) and in blocked shots (1.61 bkpg). Overall in the conference, Hickson is second in rebounding and fifth in blocked shots.

After leading all rookies in scoring for the entire season, Hickson now ranks second scoring 14.7 per game, and is 13th overall in the conference.

Hickson is trying to become only the eighth freshman in ACC history to lead his team in both scoring and rebounding in his freshman season. Hickson leads the entire conference and in field goal percentage, connecting on 59.3 percent (147-248) of his shots thus far, with the next closest player in the ACC at just 55.8 percent. He has nine double-doubles on the season, including five in ACC play, both second-best in the conference overall and tops among first-year players.

He one of only three players in the conference (and the only freshman) with two games of at least 30 points, as he scored 31 in his college debut against William & Mary then had 33 against Western Carolina. Those two scoring outputs are the second and third-best scoring games for a Pack freshman in school history.

Hickson has reached double figures in scoring 23 of the 28 games this season, and has led NC State in rebounding in 18 games. Hickson has been named the ACC Rookie of the Week three times this season, and was named the No. 9 freshman nationally by in early January.

Against Clemson, Hickson set a new conference mark. He pulled down a career- best 23 rebounds, a new ACC record for rebounds in a single game by a freshman. The 23 rebounds in one game also ties as the 14th-best performance in the NC State record books, and the most for a Pack player in a game since 1974.

Sophomore Trevor Ferguson has providing a spark off of the bench for the Pack over recent games. He has set new career-highs in scoring in each of the last two games, playing as the back-up point guard.

Over his last two games, Ferguson has averaged 14.0 points and has hit 7-of-10 three-pointers. Last time out against Florida State, Ferguson played 21 minutes scoring 17 points. He hit a career-best four three-pointers, and also set a new high with four rebounds. It marked the first time in his career he has led the Pack in scoring in a game.

At Virginia, he hit 3-of-5 three-pointers scoring in double figures for the first time this season at Virginia.

NC State has not had much success on the road this season, going 2-8 thus far. The Pack has faced four ranked teams on the road as well, and is 1-6 on the road in ACC affairs this year.

NC State is giving up an average of 79.4 points on the road including allowing opponents to shoot 48.6 percent, compared to just 63.1 points in games played at home where opponents have shot 39.7 percent.

The Pack is 3-0 playing neutral site games this season, winning the Old Spice Classic over Thansgiving weekend.

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