Previewing NC State

NC State enters the Smith Center on Saturday in desperate need of a win, though the Wolfpack has lost eight straight to the Tar Heels. Tip-off is is set for 2 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (14-5, 4-1) vs. NC State (12-8, 2-4)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
2:00 -- ESPN (Mike Patrick, Len Elmore)


"We have to control the defensive boards. They're very long, and we have to block them out and force them to come over our backs. If we allow them to push us under and reach over, they're going to get it, because they're that long." -- N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe

"It is North Carolina and North Carolina State, so that's enough right there, but I think they're a talented group. We're catching them probably at a bad time/good time, depending on which way you look at it. I'd rather catch somebody when they're fat and happy, as opposed to mad where Sidney's been beaten with a witch stick all week or something like that." -- UNC head coach Roy Williams


Season to Date: N.C. State enters Saturday's contest with a 12-8 (2-4 ACC) record. After winning its first three games of the season, Sidney Lowe's fifth squad in Raleigh has lost eight of its last 17 outings, including four losses in its last five ACC matchups. The Wolfpack coughed up 17- and 19-point leads over the past week to Miami and Clemson, respectively, but at least were able to pull out the victory over the Hurricanes.

The Return of Mr. Smith: First-team All-ACC forward Tracy Smith missed 10 games early in the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-November, but there have been no lingering effects since his return on Jan. 1. The 6-foot-8, 255-pound senior has returned to the form he showcased last winter, averaging 17.4 points and connecting on 53.9 percent of his field goal attempts (55-102) in the eight games since his return. His 18.0 points per game in ACC play stands fifth-best and his 6.5 rebounds per game ranks 13th in the league.

Defensive Delirium: If Lowe's fifth season in Raleigh is his last as head coach, his legacy left behind will highlight his inability to put even mediocre defenses on the court. The Wolfpack allowed ACC opponents to shoot 46.2 percent in ‘06-07, 47.0 percent in '07-08 and 46.9 percent in '08-09. After finishing 12th in field goal percentage defense in '07-08 and '08-09, N.C. State shot up the ACC charts to finish 11th in the standings last season (45.1). Lowe's current squad has returned home, however, as it ranks 12th in conference play with a 47.1 mark through six games. To give an example of that defensive ineptitude, the Wolfpack is 5-8 this season in games in which they fail to shoot 50 percent from the floor.

Rookie Triumvirate: N.C. State's highly-touted freshman class – ranked fifth nationally – has played valuable minutes during the first 20 games of the season. Forward C.J. Leslie has led the charge with 10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and three ACC Rookie of the Week honors, but the Holly Springs, N.C. native may have turned in his worst performance of the season against Clemson on Tuesday, missing all five shots and posting more turnovers (1) than points (0). Point guard Ryan Harrow has started the last two games and is averaging 11.0 points and 3.5 assists per game. The Marietta, Ga. native's 3.0 assist-to-error ratio ranks third in the league. After starting 17 of NCSU's first 18 games, guard Lorenzo Brown (9.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) was benched in favor of veteran C. J. Williams against Miami on Sunday.

Bombs Away: N.C. State currently leads the ACC in 3-point field goal percentage in league play, knocking down 39.7 percent from long range (31-of-78). Sophomore wing Scott Wood is the primary threat and currently ranks second in ACC play in 3-pointers per game (2.8) and third in 3-point percentage (.472). The Marion, Ind. native has drilled 20 of his last 41 treys and is averaging 11.1 points per contest during that stretch.

Slow Starts: The Wolfpack is shooting just 37.2 percent (70-of-188) in the first half of ACC games this season.

Last Meeting: The Tar Heels defeated N.C. State, 74-61, on Feb. 13, 2010, at the Smith Center. Larry Drew led UNC with 15 points, seven assists and two steals, while Deon Thompson added 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. North Carolina dominated on the glass, posting a 44-32 rebounding edge and converting 17 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series against N.C. State, 142-75. The Tar Heels have won 14 of the last 15 and 31 of the last 39 meetings against the Wolfpack. Roy Williams is 19-1 all-time against N.C. State.

Projected Starters:
12 Ryan Harrow (6-1, 160, Fr.) - 11.1 ppg, 3.6 apg
15 Scott Wood (6-6, 177, So.) - 10.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 218, Jr.) - 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg
1 Richard Howell (6-8, 261, So.) - 8.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg
23 Tracy Smith (6-8, 255, Sr.) - 15.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg

Top Reserves:
5 C.J. Leslie (6-8, 206, Fr.) - 10.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg
2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 186, Fr.) - 9.0 ppg, 3.3 apg
0 DeShawn Painter (6-9, 227, So.) - 5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg
10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 176, Sr.) - 4.7 ppg, 2.1 apg

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