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January 4, 2013

NC State excited about ACC opener Saturday




NC State kicks-starts phase two of the season Saturday at Boston College in the ACC opener.

Playing at the Conte Center usually can be tricky for visiting teams, where the Eagles (8-5 overall) have averaged 3,338 fans per game this season (11th in the ACC). NC State won't have to worry about self-motivation or being excited after an 11-2 non-conference slate and No. 23 national ranking.

"I would hope our guys are excited about playing every ACC game," NCSU coach Mark Gottfried said. "That would be my hope, and I think they are. They get it. We got enough guys on our team that have played at this level. They understand. They've been on the road everywhere in the league."

NC State went 3-0 last year against Boston College, winning at home, the road and ACC Tournament. The Eagles did present a stiffer challenge at home, falling 56-51 on Feb. 1, 2012.

"We won, but it wasn't easy," Gottfried said. "We won at Virginia Tech and it wasn't easy (70-58 on March 4). Those are hard games to go on the road and win."

NC State has only played one true road game this season, losing 79-72 at Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Nov. 27.

"Our young probably don't know yet [about playing on the road]," Gottfried said. "They are clueless somewhat, but aren't like any other freshman in the country. They just think it's another game."

The ACC coaches and media both picked NC State to win the league in preseason voting. No. 1-ranked Duke and NC State are the only two teams from the conference in The Associated Press top 25 poll. UNC and Maryland also received votes.

"I don't really get too wrapped up in all that with predictions," Gottfried said. "Like last year, whether you are picked first, fifth or eighth, you have to play. What we have to do this year is play 18 games. I always tell our team that they all count the same.

"We in our minds sometimes build up one game in being bigger than another."

Gottfried is building the Wolfpack to be their best for the third and final phase of season — the postseason.

"You have to play every night [in the ACC] and be good every day in practice," Gottfried said. "To be a team that competes for a league championship, you have to be consistent, resilient and you have to be mentally tough.

"You have to play through all sorts of things. It could be injuries. It could be a team having a hot-shooting night. It could be bad calls. That is what our team has to do every year."

Boston College is dominated by sophomores and freshmen this season. Sophomore post player Ryan Anderson is starting to blossom and leads the Eagles with 15.9 points and 9.5 rebounds.

Freshmen guards Olivier Hanlan and Joe Rahon are right behind him, and have combined for 24.4 points per game, and each are shooting three-point shot well, with Rahon at 35.6 percent and Hanlan 32 percent. Rahon is coming off a 24-point game where he made all six three-point shots in a 79-58 win over Dartmouth on Dec. 31.

Sophomore shooting guard Lonnie Jackson, sophomore wing Patrick Heckmann and sophomore center Dennis Clifford, round out the key Boston College players. Clifford has struggled some with injuries after a promising freshman season.

"Anderson is the guy that has really taken a step forward, and he was really good last year," Gottfried said. "He is emerging as an elite player in our league.

"The two young freshmen they have this year playing for them at the guards, are playing awfully well. The kid Jackson is a sophomore too that is good. They are much better than they were a year ago."

Click below to listen to his press conference:

Mark Gottfried audio press conference (12:58)



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