N.C. State at Georgia Tech
N.C. State (17-7, 6-3) at Georgia Tech (9-14, 2-7), 7:00 PM, ESPNU
N.C. State at 6-3 in the league is back in the thick of things now after Florida State, Duke and North Carolina all dropped to 7-2. But the Wolfpack absolutely has to win games like this one. This is N.C. State’s last game in an “easy” stretch (Boston College, Wake and now Georgia Tech) before it goes to Duke and then hosts Florida State and North Carolina, all in a six-day span. They have to stay focused in what will likely be a completely dead environment in Atlanta tonight. Georgia Tech has shown it will continue to play hard no matter how many disappointments they have, but the Yellow Jackets should just be focused on improving and building for the future at this point as opposed to wins and losses.
Stat to watch: Rebounding. N.C. State can be an incredibly tough and physical team to rebound against. But the Wolfpack have had some bad outings in that department, most coming in recent games. North Carolina pounded them 48-26 on the glass and while they beat up Virginia on the backboards, Boston College of all teams out-rebounded them 30-28 in Chestnut Hills. Since pulling down 42 rebounds (18 offensive) against a good defensive rebounding Virginia team, N.C. State has 50 rebounds combined in its last two games (19 offensive) against mediocre to bad rebounding teams in Boston College and Wake Forest. And Georgia Tech is actually not too bad of a rebounding team. Georgia Tech is 7-6 when it has an offensive rebounding percentage of 33.3% of higher (including exactly 33.3% at N.C. State) and 2-8 with a percentage lower than that. Conversely, the Yellow Jackets are 1-7 when allowing an offensive rebounding percentage of 32% or more and 8-7 when allowing less than that. N.C. State rebounding just 30.6% of its misses against Georgia Tech, its seventh-lowest percentage of the season. N.C. State will have to be aggressive and attack the offensive glass to ensure they get second looks, while making sure Georgia Tech isn’t able to do that.
Most important players: Scott Wood, N.C. State and Daniel Miller, Georgia Tech. It’s hard to call what Scott Wood was going through a “slump” – he failed to hit double figures only once in AC play – but in a three-game stretch preceding last week’s Wake game, he hit just 11-of-32 shots (8-of-24 three’s). Against Wake, though, he appeared to get his stroke back with 23 points (a season-high) on 8-of-12 shooting (6-of-10 from three). But in the first game against Georgia Tech, Wood had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, tied for his worst percentage in league play (2-of-9 from three was his worst). In State’s three ACC losses, he has shot 7-of-26 from three compared to 20-of-40 in wins. State needs Wood to keep being that consistent three-point threat because he makes their offense so much more difficult to defend.
Daniel Miller has had an up-and-down year, but the sophomore big man has really started to come on lately. He started the season with double-figure scoring games in six of the first 10 outings, but he has had just three in the last 13 games. One of them came against N.C. State, where he hit 4-of-8 shots and 2-of-3 foul shots, also tying a season-high with four blocks. He shot just 12-of-31 in the five games after that, scoring just 25 points. But in the last two games, he has averaged 10 points on 8-of-13 shooting and added 14 rebounds, two assists, three steals and four blocks. It’s unlikely a nice game for him will mean as much tonight as it did in Raleigh a few weeks ago, but it’s big for his confidence going forward if nothing else.
Random stat: Clemson is still dead last in the nation in Ken Pomeroy’s Luck rankings (-.157) but Georgia Tech is now second-to-last in the ACC at -.080 (322nd nationally). N.C. State is fifth in the ACC and 100th nationally in Luck at +.030.
Prediction: N.C. State 78, Georgia Tech 61
Last week: 10-2
Season: 101-36 (37-17 ACC)