Notebook: Huge Game for State

NC State (15-10, 4-7) returns to the hardwood tonight against North Carolina (24-2, 9-2). Tip-off is set for 7:00 and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

NOTING THE PACK
• Six of NC State's 15 wins have been decided by three points or less this season. The 10-point win over Virginia Tech is the only double figure win in ACC play this season.
• NC State will be facing it seventh ranked opponents (fourth in the top-10) this season, more than any other ACC team.
• NC State ranks fifth in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.419), and is 13-1 when outshooting its opponent this year.
• In ACC games, NC State is third in the conference hitting 38.8 percent from three-point range (after shooting 30.0 percent in non-conference play).
• Courtney Fells is shooting 50.0 percent (31-62) on three-pointers in ACC play, and is scoring 14.4 points in ACC games.
• J.J. Hickson set an ACC freshman single-game record with 23 rebounds against Clemson.
• Hickson leads all ACC freshmen in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and in rebounding (8.8 rpg). He is 11th and second in the ACC in those categories.
• Hickson also leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.603). The next player is at just 55.2 percent.
• Over the last six games, Gavin Grant has averaged 17.3 points. He is averaging 15.0 points in ACC play, including going 13-of-28 from three-point range.
• Three times this season, Grant's points in the final seconds have won a game for the Pack. A steal and layup with 2.1 seconds left gave NC State the overtime win over No. 21 Miami, and twice this season (Villanova and Davidson) Grant's free throws in the final seconds led NC State to victory.

NC STATE HOSTS NORTH CAROLINA
NC State will be looking to break a season-long three game losing streak, and defeat the Tar Heels at home for the second straight season with an ESPN contest on Wednesday. The Pack is 10-3 at home this season, and in the midst of playing four of five ACC games all in Raleigh. Earlier this season, then-No. 1 North Carolina downed the Pack in Chapel Hill 93-62, to start ACC play back in January.

THE SERIES VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA
Wednesday's meeting will mark the 213th between NC State and North Carolina in the series that dates back to the 1912-13 season. The Wolfpack has faced just Duke and Wake Forest more times than the Tar Heels.

UNC holds a 137-75 lead in the series and has won 25 of the last 34 meetings between the teams. The Tar Heels also hold the advantage in games played in Raleigh, 56-44. NC State is 3-5 against UNC in the RBC Center, including last year's 83-79 win over the No. 3 ranked Tar Heels. The Pack also won home contests in 2002 and 2003, the first time NC State won back-to-back years at home since 1995 and 1996. Before last season's win by NC State, the Tar Heels had won the six previous matchups.

Prior to that stretch for UNC, NC State won four straight during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, marking the most consecutive wins for State over Carolina since the 1970s.

EARLIER THIS SEASON VERSUS NORTH CAROLINA
NC State hit just 6-of-34 shots in the first half, in scoring just 13 points, and fell at No. 1 North Carolina, 93-62, in its ACC opener on January 12. The score was tied 9-9 after the first five minutes, but UNC outscored NC State 34-4 the rest of the half. The Pack missed 18 straight shots in that span, and went without a point for over 10 minutes.

NC State came out in the second half and shot 58.1 percent (18-31) in scoring 49 second half points, but got no closer than 26 in the second half. Courtney Fells scored a team-high 16 points despite missing practice time with a sprained ankle, and J.J. Hickson finished with 14 points and eight boards.

LAST TIME OUT FOR NC STATE
NC State suffered its third straight conference loss, falling at home to Clemson, 71-64, on Saturday. The Pack was down nine at the half, only shooting 26.9 percent in that first half. The Pack came back, and took a 62-59 lead with 3:29 left on a Courtney Fells three-pointer. But Clemson would close the game on an 11-2 run, and sweep the season series with the Pack. J.J. Hickson recorded his ninth double-double of the season with 13 points and an ACC freshman record 23 rebounds, while Gavin Grant scored a game-high 18 points.

PACK VERSUS RANKED TEAMS THIS SEASON
The Pack's contest against No. 3 North Carolina on Wednesday will mark the seventh ranked opponent, including four in the top-10, for NC State this season, which is more than any other ACC school. So far this season, the Pack is 2-4 against ranked foes, but only one of those previous games was played in Raleigh, a win over No. 21 Miami on January 19 in overtime.

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. 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.

PACK PLAYING RANKED NORTH CAROLINA
Playing a highly ranked UNC squad is not an uncommon feat for NC State, as Wednesday's meeting will be the 86th time NC State has faced a top-10 North Carolina team. The Pack is 26-59 against North Carolina in those previous games, including a record of 17-21 in games in Raleigh when the Tar Heels were in the top-10. UNC has been ranked in the top-10 in the previous four matchups between the two schools, with the Pack going 1-3 in those games.

NC State has defeated a ranked North Carolina team a total of 31 times, more than any other foe in school history.Second Half Woes: During the Pack's three-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 43.7 points in the second 20 minutes in those three loses, with the teams shooting 58.8 percent (47-80) from the field, and 52.4 percent (11-21) 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.

LEADING THE ROOKIES
NC State's J.J. Hickson is making a strong case for ACC Rookie of the Year. Hickson currently leads all ACC freshmen in both scoring (15.3 ppg) and in rebounding (8.8 rpg). Those numbers also rank 12th and second overall among all ACC players.

He is also first among rookie players with 1.64 blocks a game, fifth overall in the conference. Hickson leads the entire conference and in field goal percentage, connecting on 60.3 percent (135-224) of his shots thus far, with the next closest player in the ACC at just 55.2 percent.

He has nine double-doubles on the season, including five in ACC play, both second-best in the conference 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 rank as the second and third-best scoring games for a NC State freshman in school history.

Hickson has reached double figures in scoring 22 of the 25 games this season, and has led NC State in rebounding in 16 games. Hickson has been named the ACC Rookie of the Week three times this season, and was named the No. 9 freshman nationally by SI.com in early January.

Last time out 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.


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