Notebook: Pack Needs a Win

NC State (9-4, 0-1) returns home to face Florida State (13-3, 0-1), in a big conference game for both teams. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

• NC State has won 15 of the last 18 against Florida State.
• NC State's has lost its four games by an average of just 5.5 points, and its first three losses were by a combined 10 points.
• Three different players have started at each point guard, shooting guard, and small forward this season for NC State. The Pack has had seven different starting lineups in the 13 games.
• NC State has hit 46.1 percent (35-76) of its three-pointers over the last five games, after hitting just 31.3 percent in the first seven games.
• NC State's top four scorers this season are all shooting at least 48.8 percent from the field, including Ben McCauley (.569) leading the way.
• NC State has allowed its last 10 opponents to shoot just 25.5 percent (49-192) from threepoint range.
• NC State is third the ACC in scoring defense giving up just 60.9 points per game.
• NC State is also fourth in the ACC in FG percentage defense (.384) and third in 3FG percentage defense (.284).
• NC State is fifth in rebounding margin in the ACC (+6.8) after finishing last a year ago (-1.0).
• NC State has won the rebounding battle in 12 of the 13 games this season.
• Brandon Costner became the 41st Wolfpack player to score 1,000 career points. Courtney Fells (135) and Ben McCauley (68) are both within reach of 1,000 career points as well.
• Costner also became only the eighth player in school history to record 1,000 career points, 500 career rebounds and 150 career assists.

NC State will open hoe ACC play by hosting Florida State on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at the RBC Center. The game will mark the only regular season matchup between the teams, and the first of two home ACC games this week for NC State (Georgia Tech on Saturday). The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU by Sam Gore and Fred Barakat.

Tuesday's matchup will mark the 43rd meeting between NC State and Florida State. The Wolfpack leads the overall series, which dates back to 1955- 56 season, 25-17. This season also marks the fourth time in the last five years the two teams play only once during the regular season. NC State has won 15 of the last 18 games against FSU, with the Seminoles only wins during that span coming in Raleigh in 2005 and 2008 and at FSU in 2007.

The two teams are meeting in Raleigh for the second straight season, and the Pack has won seven of the last nine games at home. After last season's win by FSU at the RBC Center, NC State is 6-2 against the Seminoles at the RBC Center and 14-5 at home overall.

The two teams met twice last season, with NC State first winning at Florida State, then the Seminoles returning the favor and winning at the RBC Center.

NC State picked up its only ACC road win of the season, overcoming a 12-point first half deficit in defeating Florida State, 69-66, on Janaury 26. Courtney Fells banked in a threepointer to tie the score at 66-66 with 41.7 seconds left, then J.J. Hickson converted both his free throw attempts with 9.6 seconds left and blocked FSU's final shot to give the Pack their sixth win in the last seven trips to FSU. State was down by as many as 12 points in the first half, but finished the half on a 17-0 run, holding FSU without a point for the final 5:08. Hickson recorded his second straight double-double (12 pts. and 10 reb.) and Fells scored 16 points.

Florida State lead from start to finish, and handed NC State its sixth straight loss, 72-62 at the RBC Center on February 27. The Seminoles opened 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.

NC State fell in its first ACC contest of the season, 63-51, at Clemson on Saturday. The Pack struggled in the first half, starting the game just 1-15 from the field enroute to just 17 first-half points. The Pack came out of the lockerroom on fire, score 12 points on its first four possessions to tie the score at 31-31. But NC State would never capture the lead, as Clemson would answer with a 10-2 run and never surrender the lead the rest of the way. NC State had its worse shooting performance of the season (31.5 percent), and scored its fewest points in a regular season ACC game since the 1999-00 season.

Nobody can say the final minute of Wolfpack games this season haven't been exciting. NC State's four losses this season are by an average of just 5.5 points, and the first three were are by a combined 10 points with each of those games decided in the final seconds.

The Pack's first loss of the season was at Davidson on December 6. With Davidson up one, Stephen Curry hit a 30-foot three-pointer with just over one minute left. After a Pack free throw, NC State's Brandon Costner missed a tying three-pointer with eight seconds left, and Curry sealed the game with two more free throws in the final seconds for the 72-67 win.

Against Marquette on December 22, it was Marquette's Dominic James hitting a hreepointer with just 00.4 seconds left, as NC State fell to the Golden Eagles 68-65.

Last time out at Florida was also decided on the last possession. The Pack was up one after a goaltending call with 28 seconds left, but Florida's Nick Calathes got the go-ahead basket with 11.3 seconds left. The Pack called a timeout, but were forced into a turnover with 3.1 seconds left, and Calathes would add a final free throw for the decisive 68-66 margin.

Trevor Ferguson returned to the Pack's starting lineup at Clemson, and played a season-high 37 minutes. Ferguson had missed three straight games due to a non-displaced fracture of the fourth metacarpal bone (ring finger) on his non-shooting hand. The injury occurred during the Pack's game against Marquette on December 22.

Ferguson scored five points in his first game in three weeks, but was 0-of-4 from three-point range and failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time in his last 14 games. Ferguson was also clutch on the defensive end, as he drew the assignment of covering Clemson's top deep threat, Terrence. Oglesby was just 1-of-5 from the field, and failed to hit a three-pointer for the first time in 24 games.

So far this season, four different players have missed a total of 11 games due to injuries, but all of the Pack's players were back in action at Clemson. Before returning to action at Clemson, sophomore point guard Javier Gonzalez had played just two minutes over a five game span after suffering from two different injuries. He suffered a cut on his elbow against East Carolina. and missed the the Lipscomb game on December 20, and played just two minutes against Marquette on December 22. More recently, Gonzalez was forced to miss the wins against Loyola and Towson due to a sprained ankle suffered in practice after Christmas. He practiced once before the game at Florida but was held out, and played seven minutes off the bench at Clemson.

Senior Courtney Fells had a string of 44 consecutive starts snapped against Winston- Salem State on December 13, and missed two games due to an ankle injury suffered at Davidson on December 6. Fells has returned to the starting lineup the last five games, averaging 10.4 points in 33.0 minutes despite still being bothered by the ankle injury and missing practices.

Junior point guard Farnold Degand started the Pack's first game of the season, but missed the second half of that game at New Orleans, and played only 15 minutes over the first six games of the season. He has since returned and averaged 21.1 minutes over the last seven games, including returning as the starter at point guard the last four games.

With the rash of injuries suffered by the Pack, NC State has used a total of seven different starting lineups through 13 games of the season. The Wolfpack has used three different starters at three different positions: point guard, shooting guard and small forward. The only constant for the Pack has been the frontcourt, where Brandon Costner has all 13 starts at power forward and Ben Mc- Cauley has started every game at center.

NC State has improved its shooting as of late, as the Wolfpack is shooting 48.6 percent (198-407) over the last seven games, despite a 31.5 percent (17-54) performance at Clemson. The Pack has been over 50.0 percent in six of those last eight games, including a season best performance of 58.5 percent at Florida. NC State has also increased its production behind the three-point line, as the Pack is 35-of-76 (46.1 percent) over the last six games, an improvement from the 31.3 percent shot in the first seven games of the season.

On the season, each of the Pack's top four scorers are all shooting at least 48.8 percent from the field, with Ben McCauley leading the way (.569).

Redshirt junior Brandon Costner has reached a trio of milestones this season. On December 22 against Marquette, Costner became the 41st player in school history to score 1,000 career points. He then recorded his 500th career rebound and 150th career assist in the win over Towson.

Costner became only the eighth player in NC State history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 assists during his career.

Costner will soon have company in that group, as senior Ben McCauley is on the verge of becoming the ninth player in school history with those same career numbers. McCauley already has recorded 190 career assists, and currently has 936 career points and 492 career rebounds. Costner and McCauley are set to become the first pair of Wolfpack players to each have posted 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds while they were teammates.

The NC State defense has been lead the way for Pack this season. The Wolfpack currently ranks third in the ACC giving up a mere 61.1 points per game, as only six of the first 13 opponents have scored over 60 points in a game. NC State led the ACC through the first 12 games of its season in that category. The Wolfpack is fourth the conference in field goal percentage defense (.384) and in third three-point field goal percentage defense (.284).

Only five opponents have shot over 40.0 percent in a game this season. In Sidney Lowe's three seasons, the Wolfpack is 7-0 when it holds opponents under 50 points, a perfect 17-0 when teams score under 60 points, and 33-6 when holding teams to under 70 points.

Not only does the Pack rank fourth in the ACC in field goal percentage defense, but NC State is also third in three-point field goal percentage defense. Opponent's have only hit 28.4 percent (65-229) of their long range ties this year.

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 11 games, teams have combined to shoot just 25.5 percent (49-192), with only three teams finishing above 31.0 percent in a game.

Costner Catching Fire: Redshirt junior Brandon Costner has come on as of late, averaging 17.1 points over the last seven games, scoring 24 points three times. Costner now leads the Wolfpack in scoring this season, averaging 14.4 points.

He had perhaps his top shooting performance of his career against Marquette in scoring a game-high 24 points. He was 9-of-10 from the field, and hit all five of his three-point attempts.

Against Towson, Costner finished with his third double-double fo the season with 15 points and a career-best 10 assists. He became the first non-point guard to record double figures in assists since the first game of the 2005-06 season.

Senior Ben McCauley is enjoying a fine senior season, as he currently is second on the Pack in scoring (13.2) and leads in rebounding (8.0). McCauley has increased his scoring 7.1 points a game from last season, the second largest increase in the ACC. His average of 8.0 boards is also a career-best average, bettering the 6.9 he pulled down as a sophomore two years ago.

He has recorded four double-doubles this season, and he leads the Wolfpack with scoring in double figures in 11 of the 13 games.

Coming into the season, freshman Julius Mays was third on the depth chart at point guard. But his patience has paid off, as his playing time has increaded and he has earned a couple of starts this season.

When Farnold Degand went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season, Mays became the Pack's back-up point guard in the first six games of the year. With a healthy Degand and Javier Gonzalez in the lineup against East Carolina, Mays did not see action.

But with Gonzalez bothered by an elbow injury, Mays got the call in two starts before Christmas break, including his first career start against Lipscomb on December 20. Mays finished that game with nine points and seven assists in 24 minutes, but more importantly he did not commit a single turnover.

Mays had a strong showing in his first ACC contest, as he finished with eight points in just 11 minutes at Clemson. He has also been steady from the free throw line, hitting all 16 attempts this season.

A season after finishing last in the ACC in rebound margin (-1.0), the Pack has changed things around this season.

NC State is currently fifth in the ACC, outrebounding its opponents and average of 6.8 boards a games.

The Pack has won the rebound battle in 12 of the 13 games this season, 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.

Two Wolfpack players are currently in the top-15 in the ACC in rebounding, Ben McCauley leads the team and is seventh in the ACC (8.0) while Brandon Costner is 14th (6.8). Both players have two games in double figures, and each one has also surpassed 15 boards in a game this season.

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 30.5 percent this year. NC State has posted more bench points than the opponent in nine of 13 games this season.

Sophomore Tracy Smith is the leading scorer off the bench, as his 9.2 points a game this season ranks fourth on the Wolfpack. He has scored 119 points in his 169 minutes played this season, and is shooting 50.6 percent (44-87) from the field.

Junior Dennis Horner is the back-up at power forward this season, and is the second leading scorer off the bench at 5.2 points in 15 minutes a game.

Freshman point guard Julius Mays has also added scoring off the bench, and he is shooting 60.0 percent (6-10) from three-point range and a perfect 16-of-16 on free throws this year.

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