Raleigh, N.C. - RBC Center
7 p.m., ESPN
"I don't think [our players] have been pointing to [the UNC game]. We've had too many games in between to worry about what happened over there. Now that that's our next ball game, obviously, that's something that they should think about… We don't have a team that we can afford to do that." – N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe
"We're going to have to shoot the ball well, No. 1. We're going to have to shoot the ball, and we're going to have to take care of the basketball much better than we did and play smarter. They apply pressure and you have to be strong and precise with your decisions and we have to be ready to make the right play when they come with their pressure or their traps. But making baskets, obviously, heals a lot of wounds… And on the defensive end, we have to play really solid defense and not make the mental mistakes that we've made in some of the previous games." - Lowe
"We all understand that it's an in-state rivalry and we're going to get their best shot. They're going to be on their home floor and their crowd is going to be involved and they're going to come out with a lot of intensity to play us. They're on a three-game losing streak and they're trying to come back from that, and I think they feel that this is a way that they can definitely turn their season around." – UNC sophomore guard Wayne Ellington
Season to Date: N.C. State enters the second meeting of the season between these two rivals with a 15-10 (4-7 ACC) record. The Wolfpack has lost three straight contests, and seven of its last 11 games dating back to the first game in Chapel Hill. Late-game heroics lifted Lowe's second group in Raleigh to victories over Miami, Florida State and Wake Forest, but the boys in red have lost five conference games by 14 points or more, and have yet to break the 80-point mark in league battles.
Defensive Demise: Entering the last contest between these two programs, the Wolfpack ranked third in the conference in scoring defense (61.3) and field goal percentage defense (.377), while only allowing the opposition to shoot 32.6 percent from 3-point range. Those stats have taken a drastic nosedive over the last six weeks. In conference play, N.C. State is giving up 76.4 points (8th in ACC) and allowing its opponents to connect on 47.5 percent from the floor (12th) and 41.4 from long range (11th). One telling note is that the Wolfpack rank near the bottom of the league in the hustle stats categories – offensive rebounding (12th), defensive rebounding (11th), steals (8th), and forced turnovers (11th).
Three's Company: Senior wing Gavin Grant (15.0 ppg on 47.2 percent shooting), junior guard Courtney Fells (14.4 ppg, 53.2) and freshman center J.J. Hickson (13.8 ppg, 50.0) have provided the bulk of N.C. State's offensive assault during the conference season, combining to score 43.2 points of the Wolfpack's league-worst 68.1 points per game. Missing from the equation is preseason All-ACC candidate Brandon Costner, who is only averaging 6.9 points in ACC games after contributing 11.8 points per contest before league play began.
Gonzalez Improving: Freshman point guard Javier Gonzalez was simply overwhelmed in his first ACC contest in Chapel Hill last month, failing to score and posting three assists against three turnovers in just 17 minutes. But the Puerto Rico native has battled back to average 5.4 points, 3.0 assists and 2.2 turnovers since the first loss to North Carolina. Lowe attributes his young signal-caller's steady improvement to "the experience that he's gained."
Last Meeting: North Carolina went on a 25-0 run in the first half to open up a 43-13 halftime lead, en route to blowing out N.C. State, 93-62, on Jan. 12, 2008, at the Smith Center. The Tar Heels held the Wolfpack scoreless for a span of 10:14. Deon Thompson and Ty Lawson led five UNC double-figure scorers with 16 points apiece.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with N.C. State, 137-75. The Tar Heels are 55-45 all-time against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, including a 5-3 mark at the RBC Center and a 29-29 mark at Reynolds Coliseum. UNC has won eight of its last 11 games against N.C. State in Raleigh, losing in 2002, 2003 and 2007.
Projected Starters: 10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 176, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg, 1.8 apg 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, 205, Jr.) - 11.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, 208, Sr.) – 14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg 34 Ben McCauley (6-10, 238, Jr.) – 6.0 ppg, 3.6 reb 1 JJ Hickson (6-9, 242, Fr.) – 15.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg Key Reserves: 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, 238, So.) - 9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg 31 Dennis Horner (6-8, 220, So.) – 3.5 ppg, 1.4 rpg 13 Marques Johnson (6-5, 205, So.) – 1.8 ppg