NC State junior point guard Javier Gonzalez has become one of the barometers for the Wolfpack's success.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior from Puerto Rico, by way of Miami Dr. Krop High, has been on a roller-coaster of late, but has a big opportunity to bounce back Wednesday against Virginia. The 7 p.m. game will be televised on ESPNU. Virginia won the previous meeting 70-62 on Jan. 9 at the RBC Center in Raleigh.
Gonzalez has performed his best in some of the Wolfpack's biggest games, and has been stellar against the NCSU's fiercest rivals. He had 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists Dec. 20 at Wake Forest in a 67-59 loss.
Gonzalez came through with 15 points, eight assists and just two turnovers in the Wolfpack's big 88-74 win against Duke on Jan. 20. He then had perhaps the hottest stretch of anyone on the team when he scored 15 points in a 4 ½-minute span against North Carolina. He finished with a season-high 19 points, two assists and two turnovers in 24 minutes against the Tar Heels in the 77-63 loss Jan. 26.
Gonzalez averaged 15.7 points per game during the three game-stretch against Duke, at Maryland and UNC from Jan. 20-26, shooting a combined 8 of 14 from three-point land. Gonzalez is averaging 10.2 points, 4.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season, all career-highs. He is shooting an impressive 40.5 percent from three-point range.
Even in the same game, the Wolfpack reflect how Gonzalez plays. After he cooled off against the Tar Heels in the second half, so did the rest of the team, resulting in 12 consecutive missed shots.
"I was feeling good," Gonzalez said. "After that, I think they were focusing in on me. They had an eye on me the whole time. I wasn't trying to force it. I tried to make the right basketball play and get it to the open man."
Gonzalez's progress his junior season is why it's tough to swallow the lows, which reared its ugly head Jan. 30 when he was benched against North Carolina Central. Gonzalez went scoreless and had two assists in just 16 minutes of action in the 77-42 lead. Sophomore point guard Julius Mays earned the start in his place, and could remain in the lineup against the Cavaliers.
"The change was made the other day because of a personal situation, a team policy," NCSU coach Sidney Lowe said. "That is what that was about. I haven't decided yet which way I'm going to go with that. We have rules, and the rules go for everybody. If you break a rule, it not only affects you, it affects the team. I didn't think he deserved to start."
Lowe isn't sure if Gonzalez will start against Virginia, but he has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the team needs Gonzalez and senior power forward Dennis Horner to be on top of their games for the collective unit to be its best.
"He wasn't starting today in practice, but we'll see where it goes from here," Lowe said. "Responsibility, on and off the court. Being apart of the chain. We can't have a weak link. If one [player] steps out of line, it weakens the chain. We can't have that.
"He is supposed to be one of our leaders, and leaders are supposed to lead and lead in the right direction. That is what we need to see."
NC State (14-8, 2-5 ACC) at Virginia (13-6, 4-2 ACC)
Game time: Wednesdasy, Feb. 3, 7 p.m. - John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottsville, Va.
PG - 10 Javi Gonzalez (5-11, Jr., 10.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.0 spg) or 24 Julius Mays (6-3, Soph., 6.2 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
SG - 12 Farnold Degand (6-3, R-Sr., 6.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.1 apg)
SF - 15 Scott Wood (6-7, Fr., 8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.7 apg)
PF - 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, Sr.,12.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg)
C - 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, Jr., 17.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.2 bpg)
PG - 13 Sammy Zeglinski (6-0, Soph., 10.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.4 spg)
SG - 15 Sylven Landesberg (6-6, Soph., 18.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.6 apg)
G - 1 Jontel Evans (5-11, Fr., 2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg)
PF - 32 Mike Scott (6-8, Jr., 13.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C - 55 Jerome Meyinsse (6-9, Sr., 4.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.8 bpg)
Location: Charlottesville, Va.
2008-09 record: 10-18 overall, 4-12 ACC
2009 postseason: None
Coach: Tony Bennett, first year at Virginia (13-6) and fourth season overall (82-39)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 80-55
Last meeting: Virginia won 70-62 on Jan. 9, 2010, in Raleigh
Virginia: Landesberg was named the ACC Player of the Week after scoring 47 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the Cavaliers' two games against Virginia Tech and North Carolina last week. He went 19 of 34 from the field, and scored a game-high 29 points in 34 minutes in the 75-60 win over UNC on Jan. 31. Landesberg is the only ACC player to score in double figures for points in every game … Evans, who NC State offered to play running back in football, made his first career start against Miami on Jan. 16, and had four points, seven rebounds and four assists … Four of Virgnia's six losses this season have been by five points or less … The Cavaliers are only averaging 10.9 turnovers per game, compared to 14.8 last year … UVa is 11-1 when scoring at least 70 points, but 2-5 when scoring less than the magic number.
NC State: The Wolfpack held a 10-point second half lead, but the Cavaliers went on a 13-3 run and closed out the victory with 17 straight free throws. Smith led NC State with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Horner had 12. Landesberg scored a game-high 23 points for the Cavaliers … Smith has gone 34 of 47 from the field over the last four games, averaging 21 points and shooting 72.3 percent from the field … NC State struggled at the line against the Cavaliers, going 16 of 26, but have shot 75.8 percent (113 of 149) over the last six games … Freshman power forward Richard Howell has averaged 8.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 18.2 minutes of action the last six contests. He has grabbed six rebounds or more in four of the last six games … Mays would rank second in the ACC in free-throw percentage if he had enough attempts. He has gone 51 of 57 from the line, including hitting his last 20 attempts, to shoot 89.5 percent.