N.C. State at Boston College

N.C. State (15-7, 4-3) at Boston College (7-14, 2-5), 8:00 PM, ACC Network split/ESPN3

Richard Howell has been utterly dominant on the backboards for N.C. State.

N.C. State has to have this game. The Wolfpack face Boston College, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech team in their next three games. After that, they close the season with a stretch including at Duke, home against Florida State, North Carolina and Miami, at Clemson and at Virginia Tech. NONE are guaranteed wins. If the Wolfpack can get to 7-3 with their next three games, they at least have a chance to go 3-3 or even 4-2 in that final stretch, which could get them into the NCAA Tournament at 10-6 or 11-5. Without at least that record, they likely have no chance.

Stat to watch: Turnovers. Boston College is last in the ACC in loss of ball in conference games only (22.5%). And the Eagles know how to commit them in bunches: with the Miami game tied at 49 with 6:58 to go, BC had six turnovers on its final 14 possessions (nearly 43% loss of ball) and Miami turned those into 11 points. Miami had 19 points off of nine Boston College turnovers in the second half. The Eagles’ ACC opponents have averaged 19.6 points off of BC turnovers and in the last two games, that number has ballooned to 22.5 points off 16 turnovers. N.C. State has thrived off turnovers, averaging 18 points off turnovers in league play (22.5 in wins and 11.7 in losses). The Wolfpack has averaged 9.3 steals. State’s ACC opponents have averaged 13 points off 13.3 State turnovers and average just 6.6 steals.

Boston College turned it over 17 times in the loss at N.C. State and an astonishing 16 of those were Wolfpack steals. That led to State scoring 23 points (out of 76 total) off BC turnovers. But even N.C. State, which normally takes care of the ball, turned it over more than usual – 16 times, leading to 18 Boston College points. Since that game, the Eagles have turned into just 24 turnovers by opponents (8.0 per game) into 20 points. State had a ridiculous 27 fastbreak points but BC had 11, which is by far their most this season. In fact, they’re had four total in the three games since and a combined 16 in their other six ACC games. State can’t let a young, offensively challenged team gain confidence by getting easy baskets.

Most important players: Richard Howell, N.C. State and Matt Humphrey, Boston College. Richard Howell was clearly irked that he fouled out of the North Carolina game with just one rebound, so he responded by pulling down 18 in 28 minutes against Virginia. He had nine offensive boards against a UVA team that typically doesn’t allow that. N.C. State is 7-1 when Howell pulls down 10 or more rebounds this year. But he needs to stay in games: Howell has fouled out of three straight games now and is averaging 4.1 fouls in league play. “He’s got to stay aggressive but at the same time, eliminate the fouls that are inconsequential. Sometimes, he’ll get one or two that maybe he’s reaching for a ball,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “He’s going to get some fouls just because of how hard he’s playing, but what he’s got to improve is eliminate some of the other ones.”

Humphrey has become a streaky shooter: he started ACC play making 4-of-10 three’s in his first two games, then making just 1-of-12 in the next three. He’s made 5-of-9 in the last two games, though, and he was 0-of-5 from three against N.C. State in the first meeting. Considering how snakebitten the Wolfpack have been with opponents heating up against them, that might be a bad omen. Of course, BC Interruption pointed out that while Humphrey was 3-of-8 against Miami, he made three of his first four shots (all three’s) missed his final four attempts. Still, he’s likely going to be the one taking most of BC’s shots, so if the Eagles want to have a chance, he’d better make them. He’s shot 8-of-18 and averaged 12.5 points in BC’s two ACC wins compared to 16-of-44 shooting and 8.8 points in four losses.

Random stat: State fans feel like their team has been a bit unlucky on defense, and even cold-shooting teams have hit three-pointer after three-pointer against N.C. State. Interestingly enough, N.C. State’s lowest rank in any defensive category is almost completely out of its control: their opponents have made 70.5% of their foul shots against them, good for 258th nationally. The unluckiest team? San Francisco, whose opponents shoot 77.3%. State has moved up to 238th in three-point defense, allowing 35.9%.

Prediction: N.C. State 79, Boston College 66


Last week: 12-0

Season: 92-31 (28-12 ACC)


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