Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN-HD (Mike Patrick and Len Elmore)
"They have a tremendous ability to shoot the basketball. They have big wins; they've made a lot of threes. They have ball-handlers, even some of their big guys, who create match-up problems before being able to get on the court. They play better defense than they get credit for." -- Roy Williams
"[NC State's style of play] is something you do have to prepare a little differently for. They play a unique style that's efficient and effective for them and we have to try and see if we can play a part of the game at our pace -- and if not we've got to be able to win at a slower pace. We just have to be very patient on both ends of the court." -- Roy Williams
"They are 9-0 when [Tony Bethel] is starting and he was extremely important to them, and ... they are 13-7 overall. So you can do the math. But he came back, and I don't know if it was 24 or 28 [minutes], whatever he played at Clemson the other day, but I think he is really, really important. He gives them that stability, and a guy that can handle it." ." -- Roy Williams
"The [Tar Heels] are operating on all cylinders, they're very explosive, can score from five positions -- that's our charge to come up with a way [to slow them down]. They want to play at a really fast pace and it's not easy to [stop] because whether it's a make or miss or off a turnover, they really attack." -- Herb Sendek
"[Tony Bethel] does a little bit of everything. He's a good all-around guard, a fine defender, despite his size a good rebounder, and on offense he gives us another guy who is multi-dimensional." -- Herb Sendek
"Engin has repeatedly showed he has great poise and composure. He's a young fellow that has a very quiet confidence, he's unassuming and humble and is also very sure of himself. ... There have been any number of times where he has hit very important shots for us and even more than that made important plays." -- Herb Sendek
Last Year Vs. UNC: The Tar Heels swept the Wolfpack in 2003-04. In the first meeting on Jan. 28, UNC kept NCSU at bay all night, despite playing State's half-court tempo. The Heels didn't shoot as well as the Pack, but made up for it on the boards for a 68-66 final score. Sean May had 11 points and 10 boards, while Marcus Melvin led State with 15 points and nine boards. In the rematch a month later in Raleigh, UNC opened up a 16-point first-half lead and several big shots by Rashad McCants held off a late State rally for a 71-64 final. McCants led all scorers with 22 points.
Season To Date: NC State won their first eight games in light non-conference tuneup action, but since then have been a case in inconsistency. Losses to Washington and Duke weren't surprising, but no Wolfpack fans expected losses to the likes of St. John's, West Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State. The inability to play a consistent 40 minutes and hold a lead down the stretch has made important January wins over Georgia Tech and Maryland quickly overshadowed three days later by losses to VaTech and FSU, respectively. Combine the inconsistency with a couple of key injuries and that has knocked the preseason Top 25 team out of the polls. But as has been apparent for some full games and for stretches in others, this is still a team capable of beating anyone if they can string together 40 steady minutes of Herb Sendek's trademark style.
Injury Report: Cameron Bennerman had emerged as a standout sixth man, averaging 10.3 points and shooting 42% on threes, but an elbow sprain has sidelined him the last three games and he isn't expected to suit up against UNC. In addition, reserve senior forward Levi Watkins suffered a sprained right medial collateral ligament during Tuesday afternoon's practice and is expected to miss at least four weeks. He was averaging 13.3 minutes and 4.7 points in 18 games, including 12 starts.
Hail Julius: State's season hasn't gone as planned and Julius Hodge has struggled in the clutch on a few occassions, but he's still putting up all-ACC numbers. The versatile senior leads the team in points (18.3), rebounds (7.6) and assists (4.4), as well as minutes (33.7) and has the highest field goal percentage (51%) among the top nine in the rotation.
Defending The Pack: The key to stopping NC State's offense is a focused, patient defense -- guard the perimeter closely, but watch the backdoor. It's no surprise to find that wins and losses are always closely tied to shooting percentages, but with the Wolfpack team of late it's been a glaring parallel. They are 3-6 in their last nine games. In the three wins, they shot 50% on three-pointers (33-66). In the six losses, they shot (43-133) 32%. In total, six members of the Pack's current rotation (not including the injured Bennerman) average at least one three-pointer per game. Engin Atsur is the most prolific and is shooting 38%, though Ilian Evtimov and Tony Bethel were both 4-of-5 in last week's win at Clemson.
Projected Starters: 22 Tony Bethel (6-2, 178, G, Jr.) - 6.6 ppg, 2.7 apg 14 Engin Atsur (6-3, 200, G, So.) – 8.8 ppg, 2.5 apg 24 Julius Hodge (6-7, 205, F, Sr.) – 18.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg 40 Andrew Brackman (6-10, 205, F, Fr.) – 8.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg 3 Ilian Evtimov (6-7, 232, F, Sr.) - 8.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg Reserves: 32 Jordan Collins (6-10, 242, C, Sr.) – 6.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg 11 Gavin Grant (6-7, 190, F, Fr.) – 5.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg 33 Cedric Simmons (6-9, 216, C, Fr.) – 3.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg
Hodge ... Atsur
Brackman ... Bethel
Evtimov ... Collins