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NC State versus UNC game notes

Posted Saturday, February 3, 2007

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Raleigh, NC - Saturday’s meeting will mark the 209th between NC State and North Carolina in the series that dates back to the 1912-13 season. The Wolfpack has faced just two other teams, Duke and Wake Forest, more times than the Tar Heels.

UNC holds a 134-74 lead in the series and has won 22 of the last 30 meetings between the teams.

The Tar Heels have won the last six matchups, while the Wolfpack had won the previous four. That marked the most consecutive wins for State over Carolina since the 1970s.

FOUR OF LAST SIX VERSUS RANKED TEAMS: When third-ranked North Carolina visits the RBC Center on Saturday, it will be the highest-ranked opponent that the Wolfpack has played all year. However, Sidney Lowe's team is getting used to playing against ranked competition.

UNC will be the fourth opponent ranked in the top 25 that NC State has faced in its last six games. The Wolfpack has already
played five games against ranked competition this season.

NC State brought home Sidney Lowe's first win over a ranked team on Wednesday, as the Pack handed 16th-ranked Virginia Tech its first home loss of the season and only its second ACC loss. NC State is 1-4 against ranked competition thus far - losing to No. 25 Virginia in Charlottesville by five (62-67), to 10th-ranked Alabama (75-82), to No. 17 Clemson (76-87) and to 14th-ranked Duke, 56-79 and then defeating 16th-ranked Virginia Tech 70-59.

WOLFPACK LIKES TO TRAVEL: NC State has posted two ACC victories this season, with both of them coming on the opposition's home court. In fact, on Wednesday, the Wolfpack became the first team to defeat 16th-ranked Virginia Tech this season in Cassel Coliseum. Sidney Lowe's team is now 2-1 in ACC road games.

It's a good thing that the Wolfpack players evidently like to travel. After playing five of its first seven league games at home (including this weekend's contest versus North Carolina), the Pack will play five of its next seven on the road. Next week, NC State plays at Georgia Tech and Miami, comes home for back-to-back games versus Maryland and Virginia Teach, then goes to UNC, Florida State, comes home for Wake Forest and then ends the regular season at Maryland before heading to Tampa for the ACC Tournament.

NC State is the only ACC team that hasn't won a league game at home, but its conference road record (2-1) is tied for the second best.

LOWE VERSUS UNC: Before this season, Sidney Lowe might not have been in the ACC for over 20 years, but he certainly is no stranger to the NC State - UNC series. As a player, Lowe faced the Tar Heels a dozen times in four years - once in the Big Four Tournament and three times in the ACC Tournament.

The Wolfpack's first-year head coach averaged 8.2 points in his 12 games versus UNC, shooting just 29% from the field. However, he saved his best performance for last. In the semifinals of the 1983 ACC Tournament in Atlanta, Lowe scored a team-high 26 points against the top-seeded Tar Heels, shooting 8-15 from the field, 7-8 from the charity stripe. Fourth-seeded NC State went on to defeat Virginia in the finals and begin its run to the national title.

√ The game against UNC will mark the Wolfpack's fourth against a ranked team in six games.
√ NC State is the only school in the ACC with two players ranked in the top 10 in scoring and rebounding (Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley).
√ After Saturday's game, NC State will play five of its last seven regular season games on the road.
√ Senior Engin Atsür became the 39th player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark on Wednesday. He now has 1,003 points for his career - the 10th-best mark among current ACC players.
√ Brandon Costner leads all ACC rookies
in both scoring and rebounding.
√ Four Wolfpack players - Gavin Grant, Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley and Courtney Fells- rank in the top six in the ACC in minutes played.
√ Brandon Costner's double-figure scoring streak ended at 19 when he had nine points at Va. Tech. His streak was the ACC's third-longest when it ended.

NC State vs. North Carolina
Overall: UNC leads 134-74
Home: UNC leads 55-44
Away: UNC leads 66-21
Neutral: UNC leads 13-9
Last Meeting: NC State 69, North Carolina 82, 1/7/06 in Chapel Hill

ATSUR JOINS 1,000-POINT CLUB: Although no one anticipated that it would take until the 20th game of the season to happen, senior point Engin Atsür has finally broken the 1000-point total for his career.

With 14 points in the win at 16th-ranked Virginia Tech, Atsür now boast 1,003 points for his career - the 39th player in school history to accomplish that feat.

Although the contest against the Hokies was Atsür's second after his second return from injury, he seemed much more like his old self in the contest. He hit four three-pointers in the contest, and found the open man many times on breakaway plays (he was only credited with two assists in the contest). Even more importantly, he was the key to the Wolfpack's breaking Virginia Tech's press in the second half after the Hokies had come back to tie the game.

Atsür has missed 12 of the Wolfpack's 20 games this season because a hamstring injury. He played in the FIBA World Championships over the summer and did not return to school until the first week of September. He sat out of the team's preseason skill workouts (he had basically played two complete seasons!) and battled tendinitis in his achilles throughout the preseason.
Through the first five games of the season, Atsür was averaging 17.3 points and 35.5 minutes per game. Just six minutes into the Michigan game, however, he suffered a hamstring injury, which very well could have been caused by the original problem with the achilles, and missed the next nine games.

Finally, on January 6, Atsür was able to get back on the court against Boston College. He came back and played a surprising 31 minutes in his 96th career start, and although he didn't connect in four shot attempts, he did manage to dish out a career-high 10 assists (to just one turnover). Although he complained that his stamina was not where he wanted it to be, it seemed that the injury was behind him. The very next day in practice, however, Atsür re-injured the leg and went on to miss three straight starts.

NC State started its post-Christmas break with a heavy schedule, playing a total of six games in a span of 17 days. But after the Pack's win at Wake Forest on January 13, NC State has played just three games in 18 days. After the Saturday game at Wake, the Pack had no mid-week game, then faced No. 14 Duke on Saturday, Jan. 20. Then after the Virginia game on Wednesday, Jan. 24, the Pack was off last weekend.

Prior to Wednesday's win at Virginia Tech, NC State had dropped two straight games, in large part to its lack of offense. The Pack scored just 114 points combined (57.0 avg.) in losses to No. 14 Duke and Virginia.

Those low scoring outputs were directly related to the team's shooting percentage. NC State had its two worse shooting performances of the season in those two games, hitting just 32.7 percent (34-104) over the two games.

Against the Hokies, however, the Wolfpack was back to shooting well - hitting 53% of its field goals for its 10th 50% or better performance this season. The squad has shot better than 60% twice.

The Wolfpack now ranks fourth in the league in field goal percentage with a .490 mark.

Three Wolfpack players are currently shooting 53% or better from the field (Ben McCauley, Engin Atsür, Dennis Horner) and four of the five starters are shooting over 46%. McCauley currently ranks third in the league with a .589 mark.

COSTNER ENDS STREAK: The Virginia Tech game marked the first time this season that redshirt freshman
Brandon Costner had not scored in double-figures The ACC's leading freshman scorer (16.3) and rebounder (8.0), Costner managed just nine points in the Wolfpack win.

His 19-game double-figure scoring streak ranked as the third-highest in the ACC when it ended. The forward made up for it on the defensive side, however, pulling down 10 rebounds - his sixth double-digit rebound total of the season. Those six double-digit carom contests ranks as the second-highest total in the league. Costner has five doubles doubles this season.

FELLS IS SWELL: Sophomore Courtney Fells has seen an increase in his production over the last four games, scoring in double figures in each while averaging 13.8 points. Fells recorded his first career double-double on Jan. 24 versus Virginia, when he scored 11 points and had a career-best 10 boards.

A long, lanky player, Fells silenced the sold-out crowd at Cassell Coliseum on Wednesday night with a coast-to-coast dunk - he left the ground around the foulline.

PACK PLAYERS LIKE DOUBLES: NC State has spread the wealth this season in regards to scoring and rebounding among its players, and that is not more evident that the fact that four different players have recorded at least one double-double this season.

Reshirt freshman Brandon Costner leads the Pack with five double-doubles on the season, including an impressive 27 point, 19 rebound effort against UNC Wilmington (those 19 rebounds are the most by a league player this season). Gavin Grant turned in his third double-double of his junior season on Wednesday night, while Ben McCauley has two.

Courtney Fells became the fourth player to post a double-double this season when he pullded down a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with 11 points against Virginia.

LOWE EARNS FIRST ACC VICTORY: The road is a not a friendly place for a college basketball coach, especially one who is competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

First-year Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe, however, garnered his first ACC road victory in just his second try when the Pack won at Wake Forest (the Wolfpack lost to Virginia in Charlottesville on Dec. 3).

Lowe is the first Wolfpack coach since Press Maravich to earn his first ACC road victory in just his second try. In 1964-65, Maravich lost his first conference game on the road to Wake Forest, then defeated Maryland.

Here's a list of NC State's head coaches who have coached in the ACC and the number of tries it took them to gain their first league road victory.
Coach # games Year
Sidney Lowe 2 2006-07
Press Maravich 2 1964-65
Everett Case 3 1953-54*
Les Robinson 4 1990-91
Norm Sloan 6 1966-67
Jim Valvano 6 1980-81
Herb Sendek 8 1996-97
*First year of ACC, not Case's first year as head coach

GOING DEEPER: One common factor behind the Wolfpack's two ACC wins this season has been that Sidney Lowe has gone deeper into his bench in both of those contests.

In the Wolfpack's first three conference games, only seven players saw action and the Pack lost all three. In the last four ACC contests, Lowe has gone deeper into his bench, with a season-high 11 players seeing action in the win against Wake Forest (not including Engin Atsür who was still injured at the time), 10 versus Duke, nine versus Virginia and eight at Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack has won two of those four games.

GRANT FOR 20: A few weeks ago, Gavin Grant put togerher an impressive streak, notching three straight 20+ games against Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest. It marked the first time a Pack player had gone over 20 points in three straight games since Grant's former high school and college teammate Julius Hodge did so in 2003-04. It also marked the first time a State player has accomplished that against three ACC teams since Anthony Grundy posted three consecutive 20-point games against Clemson,
Georgia Tech and North Carolina in 2002-03.

One reason Grant's scoring may have increased so dramatically may be his shot selection. He shot 68% (28-41) from the field in those three contests after shooting 42% (70-166) in the 14 previous games.

HORNER TURNS THE CORNER: One of the bright sides to the injury to Engin Atsür has been the emergence of freshman Dennis Horner. Horner has started eight of the last 10 games for the Pack. He is averaging 7.7 points in his starts, compared to 4.1 coming off the bench. Over the last five games, Horner has been red-hot from the field (even though he did not attempt a shot in five minutes versus Virginia Tech). He scored a career-high 14 points against Clemson and followed that with a dozen against Wake Forest. Horner has shot 73% (11-15) from the field in the last five contests, 75% (6-8) from three-point range. He's also taken care of the ball in that span, only posting one turnover in the 107 minutes played.

TOP SCORERS PLAY FOR PACK: NC State is one of only two Atlantic Coast Conference schools that currently has three players ranked in the top-13 in the league scoring stats. The Wolfpack is also the only school with two players ranked in the top 10 in scoring AND rebounding.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Costner currently ranks eighth with 16.3 ppg, while sophomore Ben McCauley is 10th at 16.1. Junior Gavin Grant is 13th with a 15.2 ppg average.

The Wolfpack also has two players ranked in the top-11 in the league in the individual rebounding stats - Costner (4th, 8.0) and McCauley (10th, 6.6).

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NC State versus UNC game notes
As a player, NC State head basketball coach Sidney Lowe faced the Tar Heels a dozen times in four years - once in the Big Four Tournament and three times in the ACC Tournament.
photo by Gene Galin

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