NC State's first win over Wake Forest on Feb. 11 has been the highlight of the season, but a second one, on the road no less, could alter thoughts on what could be achieved this year.
A second upset against Wake Forest combined with success over the last three regular season games and in the ACC Tournament, would propel NC State on to the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Wolfpack play in Winston-Salem tonight at 8 p.m.
"It's something we don't dwell on and it's something certainly I know that's there, that the guys would love to achieve," NCSU coach Sidney Lowe said. "They talk about continuing to win games and try to put ourselves in a position.
"Right now I think we've been playing pretty good basketball. We just try to take it one game a time and try to keep the focus right there on one game, and hopefully in the end the end results will be good enough. We don't spend a lot of time talking about."
NC State has won five out of its last eight games, with two of the losses against North Carolina. The impetus behind the late-season surge is more commitment to playing an up-tempo style of basketball. The Wolfpack have scored 76 points or more in seven out of the last eight games.
"I think what's happened is we've got some guys that are in that situation for the first time, and it took them awhile to understand what it means and what it takes to I guess to be a running team," Lowe said. "We're still not a run and gun, but at least we get out and run. That's something that had to be kind of taught, and I think they are just getting better at it."
Starting sophomore point guard Javier Gonzalez has tried to do his part in forcing the tempo and getting the Wolfpack into early offensive sets.
"I think the guards are more comfortable at pushing it," Lowe said. "I think our wings are running a little better. Our bigs are running the floor. We are able to get down and get some shots up quick, but not bad shots."
NC State is also getting good ball movement from their power forwards and centers, helping the guards get in position to catch and shoot.
"We've executed pretty good," Lowe said. "Our shooting percentage, knock on wood, has been pretty good, 50s and 60 percent in some halves of ball games lately here. That's really been working for us."
Wake Forest preview
No. 13 Wake Forest (20-5, 7-5 ACC) at NC State (15-10, 5-7 ACC)
Game time: Today, Feb. 26, 8 p.m. — Winston-Salem, N.C.
PG — 10 Javi Gonzalez (5-11, Soph., 5.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.1 spg)
SG —4 Courtney Fells (6-6, Sr., 11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.1 spg)
SF — 33 Brandon Costner (6-9, R-Jr., 14.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 bpg)
PF — 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, Soph., 9.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.6 apg)
C — 34 Ben McCauley (6-9, Sr., 12.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg)
PG — 0 Jeff Teague (6-2, Soph., 20.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 2.1 spg)
SG — 42 L.D. Williams (6-4, Jr., 8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.9 spg)
SF — 23 James Johnson (6-9, Soph., 14.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.6 bpg)
PF — 1 Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, Fr., 13.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg)
C — 13 Chas McFarland (7-0, Jr., 8.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.6 apg, 0.8 bpg)
Scouting Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Nickname: Demon Deacons
2007-08 record: 17-13, 7-9 ACC
2008 postseason: None
Coach: Dino Gaudio, 9th season overall (105-142) and 2nd season at Wake Forest (37-18)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 131-97
Last meeting: NC State won 82-76 on Feb. 11, 2009 in Raleigh
Wake Forest: McFarland's production has dipped in ACC action, with the 7-footer averaging 6.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. He has committed 41 personal fouls in 12 ACC games, a 3.4 fouls per game average. McFarland averaged 10.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in WFU's 13 non-conference games … Wake Forest is averaging 11,774 fans per home game this season … The Demon Deacons' lead the ACC in field-goal percentage and defensive field-goal percentage. WFU shoots 49.9 percent on offense, and holds opponents to 38.6 percent. They also lead the conference in three-point field-goal percentage with 29.2 percent … WFU is 12th in the ACC with 104 three-point field goals made, going 104 for 309 for 33.7 percent.
North Carolina State: NC State is averaging 81.0 points the last seven ACC games … Gonzalez is trying to bounce back from committing seven turnovers and having zero assists in the 72-67 win over Virginia last weekend … Costner went scoreless in 22 minutes against the Cavaliers, and missed some time after hurting his elbow. He missed Monday's practice but is healthy and ready for Wake Forest. The last time he went scoreless against Miami on March 13, 2008 in the ACC Tournament. He has gone scoreless in seven games during his NCSU career … The Wolfpack are tied for first in three-point shooting percentage with 38.4 after shooting 166 for 432. NCSU is eighth in three-pointers made … NC State is 12th in the conference in turnover margin (-3.16), despite being tied for second in assists (15.2), and the Wolfpack are tied for last in steals (5.8).