Dennis Horner remembers every moment of his 2007 ACC Tournament ride to the title game in Tampa, Fla.
The 6-foot-9, 226-pound senior power forward is the last player remaining from the Wolfpack's miracle run. Horner came off the bench in the first two games, but was scoreless in wins over Duke and (in overtime) and Virginia. He then only missed one field goal attempt in the next two games.
Horner scored eight points in 14 minutes in the win over Virginia Tech, and then had nine points on 4 of 4 shooting in the 89-80 loss to North Carolina in the championship game March 11.
Horner and the Wolfpack hope to conjure up some of that tournament magic. NC State plays Clemson at approximately 9 p.m. today at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C. The game might tip off closer to 9:30 p.m. since it is the last contest of the day.
"That was the best time of my career here," said Horner when reminiscing about the 2007 ACC Tourney run. "Every day in the hotel, when we beat Duke first, there was a couple people in the hotel lobby waiting for us. We had a good time after beating Duke. We beat Virginia, and there was a couple more people. After the Virginia Tech game, you couldn't move in there. You felt good about yourself, and were winning. It was a great time for the team."
Horner and fifth-year senior shooting guard Farnold Degand know that their college careers could also end at any moment, whether in the ACC Tournament, or possibly the NIT Tournament if the Wolfpack could get a berth.
"We could get rolling," Horner said. "We beat Wake Forest, Duke, and Florida State. You can play with anybody because they are at the top of the ACC. You never know, we can still make a run."
NC State coach Sidney Lowe thinks the ACC Tournament could be wide open this week.
"You look all throughout the year in our conference, some of the wins that the lower seed teams have had this year, certainly, any team is capable of beating another in our conference," Lowe said. "It can happen, it can really happen. It's just that one night. You just need to be better than that team."
Degand ended up watching the 2007 ACC Tournament in Atlanta with former teammate Marques Johnson. The two were sitting out the season because of NCAA transfer rules and weren't allowed to travel with the team. The original game plan was to travel to Tampa to watch the tournament, but they soon realized that was too long of a road trip and settled on Atlanta where Johnson had friends and family. Johnson now attends Georgia State.
"We were like, 'We can't make it all the way to [Tampa],'" Degand said. "We just watched the whole thing and loved every second of it. There is always the possibility for success in the ACC Tournament. Anything goes."
"We've beat the No. 1 team in the conference by 15," Degand said. "The only teams to blow us out were Maryland and Virginia Tech for one game."
"With their press, you just have to attack it," Degand said. "If you are timid or hesitate, they feed off that, and they definitely make a lot of turnovers off of that. We have to be in an attacking mindset."
One of the reasons Degand moved to shooting guard this year is to give the Wolfpack a second ballhandler with point guards Javier Gonzalez and Julius Mays. Degand has been a wild card, which is another way of saying inconsistent. He currently has been in a battle with backup shooting guard C.J. Williams for minutes, with the latter playing 35 minutes against Boston College last Sunday.
The 6-4, 170-pound Degand knows that his college career could end at any point, and plans to maximize his opportunities.
"I haven't played well the last couple of games," Degand said. "With me, once I get in the flow of the flow, and my energy is pumped up and I get that second wind back, I feel I'm a lot more aggressive and a better player. When I don't get that rhythm that I'm looking for, I get a little hesitant and don't perform the way I can. It's an inconsistency I've been fighting all year.
"I'm going to play as hard as I possibly can. Going into that game [against Clemson], it could be possibly be my last game."
Degand has ridden a roller coaster during his five years of college, missing two seasons because of redshirting and transferring, and two-thirds of another year because of a serious ACL injury. He also has missed time because of suspensions. Through it all, he's glad to be wearing the NC State jersey for whatever games remain this season.
"I know I've been somewhat of a headache sometimes, I appreciate all the support," Degand said. "For the people that don't support me as much as others, I appreciate you too because you are still an NC State fan. I've had a tumultuous career here, but I've enjoyed every minute, enjoyed my teammates and everyone around here."
NC State (17-14, 5-11 ACC) at Clemson (21-9, 9-7 ACC)
Game time: Today, March 11, Approximately 9 p.m. - Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, N.C.
PG - 10 Javi Gonzalez (5-11, Jr., 10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg)
SG - 12 Farnold Degand (6-3, R-Sr., 5.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SF - 15 Scott Wood (6-7, Fr., 7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)
PF - 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, Sr., 11.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg)
C - 23 Tracy Smith (6-8, Jr., 17.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg)
PG - 2 Demontez Stitt (6-2, Jr., 11.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg)
SG - 5 Tanner Smith (6-5, Soph., 9.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg)
SF - 15 David Potter (6-6, Sr., 7.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.3 spg)
PF - 35 Trevor Booker (6-7, Sr., 15.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.5 bpg)
C - 45 Jerai Grant (6-8, Jr., 7.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 1.8 bpg)
Location: Clemson, S.C.
2008-09 record: 23-9 overall, 9-7 ACC
2009 postseason: Lost 62-59 to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA Tournament
Coach: Oliver Purnell, seventh year at Clemson 138-86, and 22nd year overall (394-277)
The all-time series with NC State: NC State leads 95-46
Last meeting: Clemson won 73-70 on Jan. 16, 2010, in Raleigh
Clemson: Booker needed just six points against Wake Forest on March 7 to move into fifth-place on the Tigers' all-time scoring list, and he finished with six points against the Demon Deacons. He is the only player to rank in the top five in both scoring and rebounding in Clemson history, and one of only eight to currently rank in the top five of each at an ACC school. He is the only player in ACC history with at least 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 blocks and 100 steals … Booker's six points against Wake Forest was one of only three games all season where he didn't crack double digits. He scored a season-high 31 points against Western Carolina on Dec. 22, and pulled down a season-best 16 points against Maryland on Jan. 31. Booker's 22 points against Duke on Jan. 23 was his best point total in league play. He has eight double-doubles for points and rebounds … Stitt has scored 38 points in his last two games - 20 against Georgia Tech and 18 at Wake Forest. He also added seven assists (his best against an ACC team) and four steals against the Yellow Jackets in a 91-80 victory … Potter has reached double figures in three out of his last four games, and has combined to 9 of 21 from three-point range. He has hit three or more three-pointers in eight games, including three out of the last four … Grant has blocked two or more shots in 18 games, with a season-high five against both Maryland and Duke. He has three double-doubles for points and rebounds. He has 18 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Maryland, and 11 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks against Virginia Tech in ACC action … Smith has reached double figures in 13 games, but is in a slump from three-point range of late, going 4 of 16 from beyond the arc the last five games. He is shooting 27.9 percent from three-point range this season.
NC State: NC State is 5-5 in the first round of the ACC Tournament, and 61-46 overall in the event. The Wolfpack have the third-most wins in tournament history, trailing North Carolina and Duke … NC State enters the field as the No. 11 seed, which is the first time they've had that moniker. NC State was a 10th seed when it defeated No. 21-ranked Duke in 2007 during Sidney Lowe's first season coaching. The Wolfpack then were the No. 12 seed the next year in falling to Miami. NC State was the No. 10 seed again last year in losing to Maryland. Lowe is 3-3 in the ACC Tourney … NC State is playing Clemson for just the eighth time in the ACC Tournament, and first since 1994. The Wolfpack are 5-2 against the Tigers … NCSU has shot 51.6 percent in the second half (48 of 93) in their last four ACC games … The Wolfpack have hit 41.2 percent from three-point land in their 17 wins (105 of 255), but just 26.1 percent in its 13 losses (65-249) … Smith is seventh in the ACC in scoring, seventh in rebounding and leads the league in field-goal percentage with 53.9. He was named second-team All-ACC, which was the Wolfpack's highest finisher since Julius Hodge in 2005 … Backup sophomore shooting guard C.J. Williams has come off the bench to average 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game over the last four games, with the Wolfpack winning three of them … Gonzalez has averaged 12.5 points over the last four games … Wood is the only Wolfpack player to start all 31 games … Reserve redshirt sophomore small forward Johnny Thomas played 17 minutes against Boston College on Sunday - getting six rebounds and scoring a basket - and he had previously played just 16 minutes in the previous 30 games. Thomas has played in only seven games this season. He did play 18 minutes on three different occasions last year … NC State has hit 72.3 percent from the free-throw line (238 of 329) over the last 15 games.