Saturday's game for NC State against No. 7 Duke at the RBC Center in Raleigh could be a day for milestones or a memorable farewell.
NC State will honor forward Gavin Grant on Saturday in what could be his final home game for the Wolfpack, unless the Pack can muster another late-season run to get an NIT birth that could potentially net another home contest.
"It's a big day for Gav," NC State coach Sidney Lowe noted. "I still think, he won't talk about it, he's been fighting through this thing. I know he's had a little problem with his knee, but he won't cry about it. He's fought through this thing, and he had a great year for us last year. He's working as hard as he can to get through it and it's a special day for him. I just hope he can go out on a good note. I'm sure the fans will be saluting him. It's his farewell here, his last game here.
"It's been interesting, but it's been fun coaching him. He's an interesting young man. He's a little more relaxed than I think people now. Gav, he loves to smile. You hear some of the things he might say publicly and you watch him sometime, but he's a kid, and he loves to smile. He's fun, he's fun to be around. He keeps you laughing."
Grant enters the game second on NC State in scoring at 13.6 and third in rebounding at 4.4. He also leads the Pack with 81 assists in 28 games, all of them starts. He and junior guard Courtney Fells are the only two players to have started every contest this year for NC State.
The starters however have come under scrutiny after NC State trailed Virginia 38-18 at halftime in Charlottesville, Va., and then fell behind Florida State at home last Wednesday 25-6. Lowe described the starters as "awful" following the Noles game, but Lowe refused to say during his Friday press conference whether or not he will shake up the lineup.
"We just have to look at whose going for us," Lowe said. "We have to find that group. Right now we're game to game in terms of trying to find that group that is playing well as we did that other night, and find a group that is playing well for us."
Even if the starters show up and ride the emotion of senior day into a strong start, that does not guarantee victory. NC State can simply look back to their last game against Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 31. The Pack dominated the first half and led 46-37 at the break, but the Devils owned the last 20 minutes en route to a 92-72 rout.
Duke's small, quick lineup posed problems for NC State. Junior point guard Greg Paulus torched the Pack behind the arc, making 5 of 8 3-pointers and scoring 22 points. Freshman forward sensation Kyle Singler used his inside-out game to score 19, while swingmen Gerald Henderson, a sophomore, and DeMarcus Nelson, a senior, both slashed their way to 18 points.
Duke averages 85.0 points a game, and Lowe knows his team will have to up its typical offensive productivity of 67.2 points a contest to stick with the Devils.
"Scoring would be one of the key things," Lowe said. "Defending them and their ability to create shots and make shots. They have a lot of guys that shoot in the mid-40s percent from the field, and the 50s from the 2s, or close to it. It's going to take a combination of things. One, we are going to need to score the basketball because they can score. They have seven guys that can."
A win for Duke will give coach Mike Krzyzewski victory No. 800 of his career against just 264 defeats. He would be only the sixth coach in NCAA history to reach the 800-win plateau, and he would be the third fastest to reach that mark behind only Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and UNC's Dean Smith. Ironically Krzyzewski's very first ACC win came against NC State in 1981.
"I mean it's just incredible what he's done over there, and not, and he's done a lot not just at Duke but just college basketball just in general, his accomplishments," Lowe said. "To think, I hate to say this, but to think this was a guy who I think after his first or second year they were ready to run him out of there, ready to get rid of him. Now here he is hall of fame and everything else and 800 wins, just goes to show."
ACC — North Carolina State (15-13, 4-10 ACC) at No. 3 Duke (24-3, 11-2 ACC)
Game time: Saturday, Mar. 1, Noon — RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.
Television: CBS (Verne Lundquist play-by-play and Bill Raftery color analyst)
PG — 10 Javi Gonzalez (6-0, Fr., 3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.0 apg)
SG — 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, Jr., 11.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF — 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, Sr., 13.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg)
PF — 34 Ben McCauley (6-10, Jr., 5.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C — 1 J.J. Hickson (6-9, Fr., 14.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
PG — 3 Greg Paulus (6-1, Jr., 10.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG — 21 DeMarcus Nelson (6-4, Sr., 15.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg)
SF — 15 Gerald Henderson (6-4, Soph., 12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.6 apg)
PF — 12 Kyle Singler (6-8, Fr., 14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C - 42 Lance Thomas (6-8, Soph., 4.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 0.3 apg)
Location: Durham, N.C.
Nickname: Blue Devils
2006-2007 record: 22-11, 8-8 ACC
2007 postseason: Lost 79-77 to Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, 726-205 in 28 years at Duke, 799-264 in 32 years overall
The all-time series with NC State: Duke leads 133-96.
Last meeting: Duke won 92-72 in Durham on Jan. 31.
Duke: Duke shot 65.6 percent from the field in the second half of their win against NC State in January, going 21 of 32 from the field and 7 of 11 from 3-point territory ... Duke is 16-1 this year when scoring over 80 points in a game ... NC State averaged two more turnovers than assists per game this year, and Duke has forced their opponents to have more turnovers than assists in 24 of their 27 games ... Duke leads the ACC in averaging 10.8 steals per game ... The Devils also lead the ACC in threes per game with 9.15 per game and is ninth nationally ... They have made at least 10 3-pointers in 12 games this season ... Sixth man Jon Scheyer, a sophomore swingman, is averaging 10.9 points and 4.3 rebounds off the bench.
NC State: The last time these two teams played Grant scored a season-high 26 points ... Grant has scored only a combined total of 11 points in his last two games after going eight straight contests with double-digit scoring ... NC State is the only team in the ACC with a negative scoring margin ... The Pack also ranks last in scoring offense, 3-point field goal defense, rebounding margin, offensive rebounds, steals and turnover margin ... NC State and Duke have split the last four games in the RBC Center ... The Pack is 16-55 when playing a Duke squad ranked in the top 10 in the polls ... During halftime of the game, the North Carolina Breast Cancer Endowment Committee will present the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Foundation a check in the amount of $132,806 to be used in the continued efforts to fund and support breast cancer research in the state of North Carolina.