Raleigh, N.C. - RBC Center
8 p.m., R/JP
"They humiliated us the last time we played them. That's something that we're aware of and something that's been in the back of our minds." -- Ilian Evtimov
"Taking a step and looking [at the first meeting] and looking at it with some distance, we just weren't very good, and I don't know that there was anything that we did well. We're feeling better physically now, not that that's the entire explanation for how we played over in Chapel Hill. We didn't play well and certainly they played an outstanding game. They're a great team; I think we all know that. But most recently we've had the more continuity than we've had all year in practice. Pure and simple, that has been a function of the fact that we're feeling better. And guys to their credit, despite some of our earlier adversities, have continued to stay the course and work hard." -- Herb Sendek
"There is no question that when you beat somebody the first time you would like it to be at their place, so you have that security of playing them at home the second time. We realize we played very well and caught them on a night they weren't playing as well. We also realize they're playing much better now than when we played them before. Just because we won the first one, they're not going to give us any extra points. In fact, it will give them extra incentive to make sure we don't take both games in the regular season. Those are a lot of motivational things and we understand that." -- Roy Williams
First Matchup with UNC: Less than three weeks ago, the Tar Heels dominated the first matchup from the outset. UNC jumped out to a 12-2 lead and quickly turned the game into a highlight reel, with countless breakaway dunks en route to a 95-71 final score. NC State allowed the Heels to shoot 60% FG, while Sean May and Raymond Felton both turned in double-doubles and Marvin Williams had a career-high 20 points off the bench.
Season To Date: NC State played a light non-conference schedule, with the expectation that if they breezed through that slate, a strong showing in the ACC would hold sufficient weight. The problem is that neither happened. The Wolfpack dropped three non-conference games (Washington, St. John's, West Virginia), suffering from both injuries and team chemistry problems, and began last week with a 3-7 ACC record -- their Tournament hopes seemingly dashed. But Herb Sendek's club took down both Georgia Tech and Maryland last week and now has a realistic shot at the NCAAs. Four games remain -- UNC, UVa, VT and WF -- and if State can win three of those they will be a strong bubble team. First up, the Tar Heels on Tuesday night.
Hodge's Team: The Pack has had its ups and downs -- and Julius Hodge has had his as well this season -- but make no mistake about it, this is his team and his numbers back up that claim. He's leading the Wolfpack in points (17.8), rebounds (7.2) and assists (4.4).
Sixth Man: In the first meeting between the two teams, State was without sixth man Cameron Bennerman. The junior wing has been a valuable all-around player and while he hasn't put up big numbers of late, he has three 20-point outings on the season. Bennerman is averaging 9.8 points, 2.5 boards and is shooting 41% 3pt coming off the bench.
"Sewer Rat Defense": That's what Ilian Evtimov called the Wolfpack's defensive effort against Maryland last week. "We came out as the scrappy, sewer-rat NC State we were missing since the beginning of the ACC season," Evtimov said. "If somebody is going to the hole, somebody has to reach for the ball, when it's on the ground, dive on the ball, just be scratching, not let them breathe." Call it what you will, but the fact remains that the reason State has won their last two games -- against Georgia Tech and Maryland -- is because of improved team defense. They held the Jackets and Terps to a combined 38% FG and 21% 3pt. Numbers like that win ballgames and a similar defensive effort will be required to beat the Tar Heels.
Projected Starters: 22 Tony Bethel (6-2, 178, G, Jr.) - 8.1 ppg, 2.5 apg 14 Engin Atsur (6-3, 200, G, So.) – 8.7 ppg, 2.6 apg 24 Julius Hodge (6-7, 205, F, Sr.) – 17.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg 3 Ilian Evtimov (6-7, 232, F, Sr.) - 8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg 32 Jordan Collins (6-10, 242, C, Sr.) – 6.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg Reserves: 13 Cameron Bennerman (6-4, 198, G, Jr.) -- 9.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg 40 Andrew Brackman (6-10, 205, F, Fr.) – 7.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg 11 Gavin Grant (6-7, 190, F, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg 33 Cedric Simmons (6-9, 216, C, Fr.) – 4.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Hodge ... Atsur
Brackman ... Bethel
Evtimov ... Collins