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December 29, 2012
With the way it was rolling, North Carolina State might have preferred to play through its week-long holiday break.
The 23rd-ranked Wolfpack will try to pick up where they left off and win their sixth straight when they return to action at home against Western Michigan today.
NC State (9-2) capped an impressive four-game tear last Saturday when it shot 57.1 percent in a 92-73 victory over St. Bonaventure. After beating Connecticut 69-65 on Dec. 4, the Wolfpack averaged 86.0 points and shot 56.4 percent to win their next four games by an average of 16.7 points.
C.J. Leslie finished with a career-high 33 points on 10-of-13 shooting last weekend to become the first N.C. State player to score that many since J.J. Hickson had 33 against Western Carolina in 2008.
The junior forward was also the third player to lead the Wolfpack in scoring in as many games after T.J. Warren had 21 points against Norfolk State on Dec. 15 and Lorenzo Brown contributed 24 versus Stanford three days later.
"It may be that one person is getting a little bit more and the other person can't get it, but we all have stepped up and led and played fairly well these last couple games," Leslie said.
Scott Wood has been especially hot, finishing with a season-high 23 points against the Bonnies on 8-of-10 shooting — including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The senior forward has scored 40 points and shot 13 of 20 — 10 of 17 from beyond the arc — in his last two games.
NC State leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.4 and ranks in the top 20 with 80.5 points per game.
"We are doing a lot of things well," coach Mark Gottfried said. "But I still think there are a lot of areas where we can improve, on how we cut, ball sticks in our hands a little too long at times."
Gottfried's team will try to keep it going against the Broncos, who have allowed 71.8 points per game in December after giving up 55.2 last month.
Western Michigan (8-4) lost three of four road games, including 73-41 at then-No. 3 Michigan on Dec. 4, before coming back home to beat Mount St. Mary's 87-66 last Saturday.
Senior Shayne Whittington scored 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds, giving him averages of 19.7 points and 8.7 boards in his last three games.
Freshman Darius Paul added a career-high 19 points, while senior Brandon Pokley had 15. Leading scorer Nate Hutcheson, averaging 12.3 points, will try to bounce back after totaling 12 in his last two games.
After finishing with season highs in points, field-goal percentage (60.4) and assists (21), the Broncos look to build on the performance against a North Carolina State team that has limited teams to 40.7 percent shooting during its five-game winning streak.
The Wolfpack are going for their eighth straight win at home, where they're averaging 87.2 points in six games this season.
While it's the first meeting between these teams, NC State is 5-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference opponents.
Western Michigan preview
NC State 2011-12 roster
NC State schedule/results
NC State season stats
Western Michigan roster
Western Michigan schedule/results
Western Michigan season stats
Western Michigan (8-4) at No. 23 NC State (9-2)
Game time: Saturday, Dec. 29, 12 p.m. — PNC Arena in Raleigh
PG — 2 Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 186, Jr., 12.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.4 apg, 2.2 spg)
SG — 0 Rodney Purvis (6-3, 195, Fr., 9.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg)
SF — 15 Scott Wood (6-6, 169, Sr., 11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 bpg)
PF — 5 C.J. Leslie (6-9, 200, Jr., 15.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg)
C — 1 Richard Howell (6-8, 257, Sr., 13.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.1 spg)
PG — 22 Austin Richie (6-2, 160, Soph., 5.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.9 apg)
SG — 10 Brandon Pokley (6-4, 182, Sr., 10.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.1 apg)
SF — 11 Nate Hutcheson (6-7, 210, Sr., 12.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF — 24 Darius Paul (6-8, 220, Fr., 12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
C — 21 Shayne Whittington (6-10, 220, Jr., 11.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.5 bpg)
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.
2011-12 record: 14-20, 6-10 MAC
2012 postseason: None
Coach: Steve Hawkins 167-136 at Western Michigan (10th season) and 303-247 overall (20th year).
Series: First meeting
Western Michigan: NC State director of operations Jeff Dunlap and director of player development Larry Farmer both worked at Western Michigan before coming to Raleigh. Dunlap was an assistant coach at WMU for the 2010-11 season, when the Broncos went 21-13, and also coached there from 2004-07. Farmer was an assistant coach at Western Michigan the last two seasons Western Michigan and NC State both played at Michigan this season. The Broncos lost 73-41 on Dec. 4, while the Wolfpack lost 79-72 on Nov. 27 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Western Michigan is making its second appearance in the state of North Carolina. The Broncos swept a home-and-home with High Point on Nov. 29 and Dec. 16, with the latter contest on the road Senior forward Nate Hutcheson poured in a career-high 30 points and shot 6 of 8 from three-point land against Loyola Chicago Nov. 16. The 6-7, 210-pounder had 15 points and 10 boards for his lone double-double at Illinois State Dec. 8. The four-year starter leads the team with 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game Junior center Shayne Whittington, who is 6-10 and 220 pounds, has improved from 4.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest last year, to 11.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this season. Whittington scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds in a 87-66 win over Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 22, and he previously had 20 points and 10 boards in a 71-66 loss to Duquesne on Dec. 19. Whittington also had 15 points and 13 boards at Cornell Nov. 10, and added 15 points and nine rebounds at High Point Senior shooting guard Brandon Pokley is enjoying his best season. The 6-4, 182-pounder is averaging 10.3 points and shooting 42.4 percent from three-point land. He averaged 4.6 points last year, but shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. Pokley had 16 points and four three-pointers against Marygrove College on Nov. 13, and tallied 15 in wins over South Florida on Nov. 18 and Mount St. Mary's Freshman power forward Darius Paul is the younger brother of Illinois star senior shooting guard Brandon Paul. The 6-8, 220-pound Darius Paul has scored at least eight points in every game. He had 10 points and 10 rebounds against both Michigan and at High Point, and tallied a season-high 19 against Mount St. Mary's Sophomore point guard Austin Richie started eight games a year ago, and had a career-high 22 points and four three-pointers at Oakland last December. He rounds out the starting lineup with Pokley, Hutcheson, Paul and Whittington The 6-2, 160-pound Richie had 13 points against Loyola in his only double-digit game this season Freshman small forward Kellen McCormick is the son of former Michigan standout and NBA center Tim McCormick, who is also a college basketball announcer and helps run the NBPA Camp for elite high school players. McCormick and freshman point guard Von Washington III are both redshirting this season.
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