Norfolk St.-NC State Preview
Still trying to mesh some talented freshmen with four returning
starters, North Carolina State’s lengthy homestand may have come at
the right time.
The 25th-ranked Wolfpack return from a week off and look to keep
improving on the defensive end Saturday night when they meet
Norfolk State in the second of six straight home games.
Preseason favorites to win the ACC, the Wolfpack (6-2) were
ranked sixth and opened 3-0 before a poor end to their November
schedule. They lost by 20 to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico
Tipoff championship and fell 79-72 at third-ranked Michigan in the
ACC/Big Ten Challenge. In between, they barely slipped past
visiting North Carolina-Asheville 82-80 on Nov. 23.
North Carolina State, though, rebounded to defeat Connecticut
69-65 on Dec. 4 and Cleveland State 80-63 last Saturday in its
annual game back at Reynolds Coliseum, where the team played from
“We’re learning that for the most part when you do have some
attention around your program, you better bring it every night
because teams are going to play better against you,” coach Mark
While offense hasn’t been a problem for Gottfried’s team, which
ranks second nationally in field-goal shooting at 52.1 percent,
defense had been a big concern before solid efforts in the past two
The Wolfpack had allowed at least 76 points in four straight
games before holding UConn and Cleveland State to an average of
64.0 on 42.0 percent shooting. Their previous two opponents each
hit 50.0 percent from the field.
North Carolina State forced 18 turnovers and had a season-high
seven blocked shots last Saturday.
Forwards C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell have keyed the
Wolfpack’s explosive offense, each recording three double-doubles
in the past four games. Leslie, a junior, is averaging 16.3 points
and 10.5 boards in that span while Howell has averaged 16.3 and
Howell, shooting 68.1 percent from the field to rank second
nationally, is one of two seniors among the seven regulars in
“I thought I needed to step up and fulfill that (leadership)
role with this being my last year,” Howell said. “I feel like we
can go far but leadership is something we lacked.”
T.J. Warren, one of the team’s freshman additions, isn’t far
behind Howell in field-goal shooting at 67.1 percent to rank fourth
in the country. He returned to a reserve role last Saturday after
starting the previous two games but came through with 16
The Wolfpack might have a tough time getting open looks against
Norfolk State (6-6), which has held opponents to 34.3 percent
shooting over its last four games.
The Spartans, who shocked No. 2 seed Missouri in the first round
of last season’s NCAA tournament, will make another upset bid after
nearly knocking off 10th-ranked Illinois on Tuesday. They were
within three with less than two minutes left before losing 64-54,
snapping a four-game winning streak.
“We really have to work on finishing basketball games because we
had opportunities down the stretch,” coach Anthony Evans said.
Pendarvis Williams (12.0), Malcolm Hawkins (11.7) and Rob
Johnson (10.1) lead six players averaging 7.0-to-12.0 points for
the Spartans. Hawkins and Johnson, though, combined for 14 points
on 5-of-21 shooting against the Illini after totaling 76 points in
the previous two contests.
Norfolk State has averaged 74.3 points and shot 47.0 percent in
its six wins, compared to 56.0 points on 36.4 percent shooting in
North Carolina State won these teams’ only meeting – 81-63 on
Feb. 14, 1998 – and is 28-0 all-time against Mid-Eastern Athletic