Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
8 p.m., Raycom (Tim Brando, Mike Gminiski)
"Obviously, they're a very good ballclub. They execute, they play hard and they don't turn it over a lot. But if we go out there and do some of those things that we've shown lately, then we can win the ballgame. We need to go in there and take care of the basketball and not allow them to get those easy baskets because [Ty] Lawson is as good as anyone in the country at pushing the ball up the floor." – NCSU head coach Sidney Lowe
"They have all of the parts. They haven't had the experience in the backcourt, so they've gone big and moved Courtney [Fells] back there, so that takes one inexperienced player out of the mix that they perhaps had in there earlier. The size they have up front has helped them a great deal rebounding the basketball." – UNC head coach Roy Williams
"If he's shooting the ball it's really a tough match-up. Not only is he quick, but he's strong." – Lowe on Lawson, who is shooting 49 percent from 3-point range
Season to Date: N.C. State enters the second meeting between these programs on Wednesday with a 14-9 (4-6 ACC) record. The Wolfpack have won three of its four contests since the Jan. 31 loss to UNC, defeating N.C. Central (87-59), Wake Forest (82-76) and Georgia Tech (86-65). The only loss occurred at Virginia Tech (91-87, OT) after State collapsed down the stretch, coughing up an 18-point second-half lead.
Costner Heating Up: Brandon Costner has returned to the form that he displayed during his red-shirt freshman season, averaging 16.4 points over the last 17 games, which includes seven 20-point performances and 15 double figure outings. The junior leads the Wolfpack in scoring this season, averaging 15.0 points, which also ranks 16th in the ACC.
Offensive Spark: Lowe has used three different point guards throughout the season, but appears to have settled on Javier Gonzalez for the stretch run. The sophomore point guard has averaged 8.5 points and 4.0 assists in 22.8 minutes with three starts over the last four games. The move has evidently worked, as the Wolfpack is averaging 83.0 points a game over the last five ACC games, which is the longest conference streak since the 2005-06 season. N.C. State has also scored at least 80 points in each of the last three conference games, the longest stretch in ACC play since the 1990-91 season.
Big Lineup Working: Since the Miami win on Jan. 27, Lowe has moved Tracey Smith into the starting lineup at power forward, shifting Costner to small forward and Courtney Fells back to shooting guard. During that five-game ACC stretch, those three players have joined center Ben McCauley in scoring 65.3 percent (271 of 415) of the Wolfpack's points. N.C. State is 4-2 overall since the lineup change.
Defense Still an Issue: Despite figuring out some of the offensive problems, N.C. State is still struggling on the defensive end of the floor. In ACC play, the Wolfpack ranks dead-last in field goal percentage defense, allowing its opponents to shoot 46.5 percent (288-of-619). N.C. State's inability to create turnovers (13.3 is third-fewest forced in the league) hasn't helped.
Last Meeting: Tyler Hansbrough led all scorers with 31 points as the Tar Heels defeated N.C. State, 93-76, at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Jan. 31, 2009. Five different UNC players scored in double figures as North Carolina shot better than 56 percent in both halves. The Tar Heels owned the paint, outscoring the Wolfpack, 46-16.
Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series with N.C. State, 139-75. UNC has won five straight and 11 of the last 12 meetings. The Tar Heels are 67-22 in Chapel Hill, including a 17-5 mark in the Smith Center.
Projected Starters: 10 Javier Gonzalez (5-11, 172, So.) - 4.7 ppg, 3.1 apg 4 Courtney Fells (6-6, 210, Sr.) - 12.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, 231, Jr.) – 15.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, 240, So.) - 9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, 237, Sr.) – 12.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg Top Reserves: 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, 218, Jr.) – 5.4ppg, 2.7 rpg 12 Farnold Degand (6-3, 185, Jr.) – 5.4 ppg, 2.4 apg 21 C.J. Williams (6-5, 203, Fr.) – 3.2 ppg
Costner ... McCauley
Fells ... Smith
Degand ... Ferguson
(Photos courtesy Getty)