Notebook: Banged Up Pack Faces Pirates

NC State (5-1) returns to action tonight at the RBC Center, when the Wolfpack entertains the East Carolina Pirates (8-1) at 7:00 p.m.

NC State returns to action at the RBC Center, when the Wolfpack entertains the East Carolina Pirates on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Both teams come into the game with just one loss apiece, and the two squads have combined for 13 wins on the season.

The Wolfpack is a perfect 4-0 at home this season, but will only be playing in the RBC Center for the third time after two games were held in Reynolds Coliseum. The Pack has won its two games in the RBC Center by an average of 26.5 points, defeating Winthrop, 74-48, and UNC Greensboro, 79-52, both in late November.

The game will be broadcasted on ACC Select.

NC State currently owns a 17-1 record in the overall series with East Carolina, with the Pack's average margin of victory in the series 20.7 points. Only three of the Wolfpack's wins have been decided by less than 10 points, and NC State has prevailed in each of the 17 previous games on their home court.

The two teams are meeting for the third straight season. Last season was the first game between the two teams in Greenville, as ECU came away with a 75-69 win in early December, and the Pack downed the Pirates in Coach Lowe's first season, 64-57.

Sam Hinnant scored a career-high 30 points and hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 2:09 left to help East Carolina to a 75-69 victory in Greenville, N.C., on December 8. The win was ECU's first win against an ACC team, and the first win against NC State in 18 tries as the Pack was playing its first-ever game in Greenville. With the score tied 38-38 at the half, NC State went on a 9-0 run to open play in the second half, but ECU responded with a 15-6 run to even the game up. The Pirates were 10-of-18 on three-point tries, including six by Hinnant. Gavin Grant tied his career high with 25 points, while J.J. Hickson added 15 as he returned to the starting lineup.

The NC State defense limited Winston-Salem State to 28.1 percent form the floor, including just 11.1 percent (2-18) from three-point range, as the Wolfpack easily defeated the Rams, 74-46, in Reynolds Coliseum Saturday night. The Wolfpack started the game on a 16-5 run, and were up 40-20 at the half. Trevor Ferguson (12 pts) and Simon Harris (6 pts, 6 reb) each notched their first career starts, while Courtney Fells missed the game with an ankle injury. NC State used 22 assists on its 28 made field goals, and the 28-point win also marked the most lopsided win in the Sidney Lowe era.

NC State's home court has not been welcoming to non-conference opponents since the RBC Center opened for the 1999-2000 season, as the Pack has posted a 74-8 (.902) record in such games.

Under Coach Lowe, the Pack has posted an 18-2 (.900) mark against non-conference opponents at home, losing only to No. 10 Alabama in 2007 and to New Orleans last year.

NC State has been even more impressive at home against against non-conference opponents from the state of North Carolina. The Wolfpack has won the last 19 games against in-state non-conference foes at the RBC Center, and 21 of 22 overall at the RBC Center, only losing in the 2000-01 season to Charlotte.

After opening the season on the road for the first time since 1997, the Wolfpack will not have to leave the state of North Carolina until January.

NC State is currently in a stretch of playing 9 of 10 games all at home, with the only road contest during that span being December 6 in Charlotte against Davidson.

RACE TO 1,000
A trio of Wolfpack players have the chance to do what only 40 other NC State basketball players have done before, score 1,000 career points. Seniors Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley and redshirt junior Brandon Costner made up the 2005 recruiting class for NC State, and all three have the chance to reach 1,000 career points during this season.

Costner is currently the closest to that mark as he has 942 career points, followed by McCauley with 856 and Fells with 823. If all three players reach 1,000 points, it will mark only the second time in NC State history that three players from the same recruiting class all accomplished that feat (1980 - Thurl Bailey, Derek Whittenburg and Sidney Lowe). In fact, only nine times have a pair of players in the same recruiting class each scored 1,000 point during their careers, the last were Ilian Evtimov and Julius Hodge from the 2002 class.

The NC State defense has helped the Pack to a quick 5-1 start on the season. The Wolfpack currently leads the ACC giving up a mere 55.5 points per game, as only one opponent has scored over 60 points. NC State is also the only team currently holding opponents under 60.0 points a game in the conference.

The Wolfpack is also leading the conference in both field goal percentage defense (.346) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.264).

Only one opponent has shot over 40.0 percent in a game this season, New Orleans (.458), and the Pack is allowing the opposition to hit just 31.4 percent of its shots at home this season.

In Sidney Lowe's three seasons, the Wolfpack is 7-0 when it holds opponents under 50 points, a perfect 16-0 when teams score under 60 points, and 30-3 when holding teams to under 70 points.

Although NC State's field goal percentage this season ranks in the middle of the ACC, its three-point shooting ranks near the bottom. NC State is currently ninth in the conference, hitting 31.0 percent of its long range shots.

Only twice this season, High Point (45.0) and Winston-Salem State (35.3), has NC State shot over 30.0 percent, and over the last four games the Pack has hit just 27.6 percent (21-76) of its three-pointers.

On the other end of the court, NC State has improved in its three-point field goal percentage defense since the first two games of the season. In those opening two contests, the Pack allowed New Orleans and High Point to shoot a combined 43.2 percent (16-37) from long range. But over the last four games, teams have combined to shoot just 17.8 percent (13-73), with Davidson having the top game at just 25.0 percent (6-24).

Senior Courtney Fells had a string of 44 consecutive starts snapped against Winston-Salem State, when he was forced to miss the first game of his career due to an injury.

Fells was was hurt in the game at Davidson, and then missed a week of practice. In the first half, Fells was going for a loose ball and injured his shoulder. After receiving some treatment Fells returned only to suffer an ankle injury in the second half. The leading scoring entering that game, Fells hit only two shots and scored four points, and was also missed on defense.

After missing all but 10 games last season with a torn ACL, junior point guard Farnold Degand has once again been hit with the injury bug early this season. After starting the game at New Orleans in the season opener, Degand sat out the second half and missed the next three games. Degand had been limited since practice began in mid-October, after sitting out the Pack's exhibition games in Canada over Labor Day.

Degand practiced the week before the game at Davidson, but only saw four minutes of action. He also missed the Winston-Salem State game, but that was due to disciplinary reasons.

Senior Ben McCauley is enjoying a fine senior season, as he currently leads the Pack in both scoring (15.2) and rebounds (9.3). McCauley has increased his scoring 9.1 points a game from last season, the second largest increase in the ACC. His average of 9.3 boards is also a career-best average, bettering the 6.9 he pulled down as a sophomore two years ago.

He is the only Wolfpack player this season to score in double figures in every game. Over the last four games, three of which were double-doubles, McCauley is averaging 15.5 points and 11.3 rebounds.

Last time out against Winston-Salem State, a pair of Wolfpack players earned their first career starts.

Senior Simon Harris started at small forward for the injured Courtney Fells and finished with career-highs of six points and six rebounds. Junior Trevor Ferguson got the nod at shooting guard, and hit three-of-five three-pointers in scoring 12 points.

A season after finishing last in the ACC in rebound margin (-1.0), the Pack has changed things around early this season. NC State is currently third in the ACC, outrebounding its opponents and average of 8.3 boards a games. The Pack won the rebound battle in five of the six games this season, but only outrebounded at Davidson 45-39.

Before that Davidson game, the Wolfpack had increased its rebound totals in each of the first four games of the season, including a season-high of 49 against UNC Greensboro. That marked the most rebounds in a game for NC State in 224 games, dating back to 2001- 02.

NC State is getting better production in terms of scoring from its bench players, as the bench points have gone from under 24 percent last season to 33.6 percent through the first six games.

Redshirt junior Trevor Ferguson is the top long distance threat off the bench, ranking fourth on the team in scoring (7.7). He has hit at least one three-pointer in 11 straight games dating back to last season, and is a career 41.3 percent three-point shooter.

Sophomore Tracy Smith is also tied for the lead for scoring off the bench, as his 7.7 points a game this season rank fifth on the Wolfpack. He has scored 46 points in his 67 minutes played this season. Last game out against Winston-Salem State, Dennis Horner pitched in with 11 points and seven boards as well. Experience Leads NC State Scoring: In the season stats, five of the top six scorers for NC State are all either seniors or juniors. Six games into the year, 73.1 percent of the scoring has come from those two classes while the sophomores and freshmen make up just 26.9 percent of the scoring. The Pack's three most experienced players, Brandon Costner, Courtney Fells and Ben McCauley, all are averaging double figures. McCauley leads the way at 15.2 ppg, followed closely by Fells (13.6) and Costner (11.2). Make His a Double: Senior Ben MCauley had a string of three straight double-doubles snapped when he finished with team-highs of 14 points and nine boards against Winston-Salem State.

McCauley has posted a double-double in three of the last four games. He recorded 15 points and pulled down 11 boards in the win over Winthrop, and then followed that up with 17 points and 15 rebounds against UNC Greensboro. The 15 rebounds also marked a new career- best for McCauley. Last time out at Davidson, McCauley pitched in with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Those double-doubles were the first for McCauley since the 2007 NIT, and he now has nine for his career. The three double-doubles are second-best in the ACC this season.

Senior Courtney Fells has switched positions this season. After playing his first three years at mostly shooting guard with 66 career starts, Fells has moved to the wing and plays more of a small forward this season. The move appears to be paying off, as Fells is currently second on the Pack in scoring with 13.6 points a game. He ranks 19th in the ACC in scoring, and has improved his scoring average from 10.6 points last season and 10.9 as a sophomore.

He has gone over 20 points twice already this season, after accomplishing that feat only four previous times in his career. In the win over High Point Fells tied his career high with 23 points, and went for 22 points against UNC Greensboro.

Junior Brandon Costner is getting back into the groove in one of the top areas of his game, rebounding. In three of the first six games Costner has led the Pack in rebounding, and is averaging 7.0 an outing, ranking 14th in the ACC.

He recorded his first double-double of the season at Davidson, as he pulled down 11 boards to go along with 18 points.

Two seasons ago as a redshirt freshman, Costner led the squad with 7.3 boards a game, nine games in double digits, and pulled down a NCSU freshmen record 264 rebounds. Last season his numbers dipped, averaging 4.6 rebounds, and reaching double figures in just two games.

With point guard Farnold Degand having been sidelined with a knee injury, sophomore Javier Gonzalez fills a role he is quite familiar with once again. After Degand went down 10 games into last season, it was Gonzalez as a freshman that served as the Pack's starting point guard for much of the remainder of the season.

Gonzalez started the final 10 games of last season and 15 games overall during his rookie campaign filling the void left by Degand. He was once again in the starting lineup against High Point on November 22, and has started the last five games overall.

Gonzalez currently ranks 10th in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio. He has dished out 24 assists to 16 turnovers this season (1.5).

Against UNCG, he finished with seven assists to no turnovers. That's the second-most assists in a game for him, and the most without a turnover as well. With Gonzalez at the helm of the offense, NC State as a team ranks second in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (1.3).

Senior Courtney Fells would lead the ACC in free throw percentage if he had enough attempts this season. He has made 11- of-12 attempts (91.7 percent) this year, and dating back to last season Fells has made 20 of his last 21 attempts.

NC State has now hit at least one three-pointer in 606 straight contests, a streak that dates back to the Wake Forest game on March 4, 1989. NC State currently has the second-longest consecutive streak in the ACC (Duke-663).

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