Jan. 3, 2014
NC State opens its 61st season of ACC play Saturday at noon when it hosts the Pittsburgh Panthers at PNC Arena. The contest, set to air on the ACC Network, is Pitt's first game as a member of the ACC.
NC State leads the all-time series 9-1 over Pittsburgh, but the two teams haven't played since December 1991. NC State has won the last five games between the two schools.
The Wolfpack finished nonconference play with a 10-3 mark after claiming a 68-64 win at UNC Greensboro. NC State has won eight of its last nine games, with the only setback coming vs. nationally-ranked Missouri on Dec. 28.
As ACC play begins, Pack sophomore T.J. Warren is the conference's leading scorer at 23.9 points per game. The nation's sixth-ranked scorer also leads the league with a .541 shooting percentage (minimum 5 made FG per game). Warren is also among the ACC leaders in rebounds and steals. Anthony 'Cat' Barber, NC State's second-leading scorer who posted 17 points at UNCG, has climbed to fifth on the ACC assists chart.
Pitt (12-1) is led by Lamar Patterson, a 6-5 fifth-year senior who averages 16.8 points per game. The Panthers' only blemish this season came in a 44-43 loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 17. NC State also played Cincinnati, the two teams' only common opponent.
Following Saturday's game, NC State will travel to another new member of the ACC, Notre Dame. The Wolfpack will play at Notre Dame Tuesday, Jan. 7 at 9 p.m.
The Starting 5 - The top 5 storylines for this game
1. ACC OPENER
Beginning its 61st season in ACC play, NC State sports a 34-26 mark in ACC openers. The Wolfpack is 2-0 in ACC openers under Mark Gottfried. NC State won 79-74 over Maryland in 2012 during Gottfried's first season and 78-73 at Boston College last season. In all, NC State has started ACC play 1-0 for three consecutive seasons.
2.THE ACC'S BEST SCORER
The ACC's leading scorer heading into the start of conference play is T.J. Warren, who ranks sixth in the nation averaging 23.9 points per game. The 6-8 sophomore continues to show he is one of the more efficient scorers in all of college basketball, boasting an ACC-best .544 field goal percentage. He shot .622 from the floor last season, the second-highest single-season shooting percentage in NC State history (.624, Kevin Thompson, 1991-92). The 6-8 sophomore is the only player in the ACC with multiple 30-point performances, hitting the mark against Florida Gulf Coast (30), Eastern Kentucky (30) and ECU (32). Warren has scored 21 points or more in 11 of NC State's 13 games this season.
3. ON THE `MARK' in ACC PLAY
NC State won 20 ACC games during Mark Gottfried's first two seasons at NC State. That total was the most for the Wolfpack over a two-year span since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. NC State also won 20 ACC games during those two seasons. Additionally, Gottfried became just the third coach in ACC history to lead his first two teams to the NCAA Tournament.
4. PUT THE BALL IN THE BASKET
The Wolfpack has been effective shooting the basketball most of the season, standing third in the ACC and 28th in the nation with a .483 field goal percentage. NC State has posted seven outings with .500 shooting or better, including its .582 offensive display against East Carolina on Dec 21. The Wolfpack shot .619 in the season opener vs. Appalachian State and was at exactly .500 shooting in victories over Eastern Kentucky, Long Beach State and Detroit. Dating back to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, NC State is 21-5 when shooting at least .500 from the floor.
5. NC STATE INSIDE THE ARC
No team in America scores a higher percentage of its points on made 2-point field goals than NC State. The Wolfpack is first in the nation with 65 percent 2-point scoring distribution. Further, NC State is 14th in the nation and third in the ACC with a .554 shooting percentage on its attempts from inside the arc.