No. 21 Va. Tech looks to continue surge vs. N.C. State

RALEIGH, N.C. — Now there’s no sneaking up on any team for Virginia Tech.

The Hokies have moved into the national rankings at No. 21 after defeating Duke to open Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Virginia Tech tries to enhance its blossoming profile Wednesday night against host North Carolina State at PNC Arena.

The best way to do that is to play at a high level all the time, guard Seth Allen said.

“It shows what we can do,” Allen said of defeating then-No. 5 Duke. “If we can play a top-five team like this, we should never play down to an opponent.”

So just how the Hokies (12-1) handle this new-found respect might define the course of the season. The Hokies are ranked for the first time since early in the 2010-11 season.

“I don’t think we’re to the point that we played 40 minutes (perfectly), but I don’t know that any coach would say that in Game 13,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I think that we have a long way to go.”

This will be Virginia Tech’s second true road game of the season. The Hokies haven’t won in Raleigh since 2011.

Having lost at Miami on Saturday, N.C. State will be opening the ACC schedule with three consecutive games against nationally ranked teams.

So there are various ways to judge the Wolfpack’s progress.

“The way I look at it is, the most important thing I see is, ‘Are we getting better? Are we getting better defensively? Are we getting better executing our offense? Are we getting better rebounding the ball?’ ” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “And I do think we are. Now we’re going to get challenged.”

N.C. State is still trying to figure out its best lineup combinations, something that might not have been totally sorted out in the 81-63 loss to Miami.

Forward Omer Yurtseven is less than a month into his freshman season after sitting out the first nine games as mandated by the NCAA, and so a degree of patient might be required.

“We knew it’d be a learning curve, and I think we’re making that adjustment now and it’s going to be good for us in conference play,” freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. said.

The Wolfpack’s defense has progressed, something that Gottfried said will be tested in other ways against ACC competition.

“I think they have a little confidence defensively in how they’re playing, they feel good about that part of the game for us,” Gottfried said.

In six non-league December games, the most points allowed were the 71 in a victory against Rider.

“We got better defensively. That’s pretty obvious,” freshman forward Ted Kapita said. “Because before, we didn’t know … what to do on defense sometimes. Now we got better, everybody wants to play harder, everybody wants to win. I think we’re all on the same page right now.”

N.C. State will have to deal with a diverse Virginia Tech offense, which put six players in double figures in the Duke game. That included sophomore forward Chris Clarke, whose 13 points marked his most in ACC play in two seasons. Clarke was 5 of 5 from the field, marking the 12th time in 13 games he has shot 50 percent or better.