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    TIM PEELER: Fells' Scoring Catches Attention of Opponents
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

     

    RALEIGH, N.C. The only time NC State junior Courtney Fells has been to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, he didn’t draw much attention from the students that make up the famed Cameron Crazies. In fact, he’s not even sure they knew his name.

     

    “They were even yakking at some of our walk-ons,” Fells said. “But they didn’t really say anything about me.”

     

    Thursday night, however, when the Wolfpack makes the short drive to Durham for the 9 p.m. matchup with the Blue Devils, Fells might just draw a little more attention his second time around.

     

    “I think they might be on me a little more this time,” said Fells, who has led the Wolfpack in scoring four of the last five games, including a career-high 23-point performance a week ago against Georgia Tech.

     

    Since failing to score against North Carolina Central in the Wolfpack’s final non-conference game when he suffered a severe ankle sprain that nearly derailed him for the start of the ACC season Fells has become the Wolfpack’s most consistent scorer and a major scoring threat on the perimeter.

     

    He’s averaging 17.6 points in the Wolfpack’s last five games, all against ACC opponents. That’s nearly twice as much as he averaged in his team’s first 14 games of the season, as he struggled to find a consistent outside shot. He even led the team with 16 points against North Carolina, even though he probably rushed himself back into the lineup a little too quickly.

     

    “I probably shouldn’t have even played in that game,” said Fells, who was listed as doubtful right up until game-time. “I told the team trainers I was 95 percent, but I was only about 70. I knew I would have to shoot, because I couldn’t really drive to the basket, or put any pressure on my ankle.”

     

    But, just like this time last year, Fells is heating up. His coming out party was against North Carolina, when he scored 21 points in State’s 83-79 upset of the No. 3 Tar Heels last January. For the rest of the season, Fells was a significant threat from the perimeter.

     

    Now, after making 17 of 32 attempts beyond the arc, Fells is second in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (53.1 percent) in ACC games, trailing only Clemson’s K.C. Rivers.

     

    “I am starting to feel the same way I did last year now,” Fells said.

     

    He’s not sure that his shooting will matter that much Thursday night against the Blue Devils, a team that has only one player taller than 6-8 in its regular lineup. The game appears to be a classic matchup of an inside-oriented team against a perimeter-oriented team. But Fells will certainly be depended on to beat Duke’s pressure man-to-man defense, with its fundamental philosophy of denying the ball to the wings and creating turnovers.

     

    “We just have to stay solid with our offense and not give in to their pressure,” Fells said. “I think we will be fine if we can get the ball to our bigs (freshman J.J. Hickson, junior Ben McCauley and sophomore Brandon Costner). I don’t feel like they can match up with us in the post. They probably don’t feel like we can match up with them on the perimeter.

     

    “So we both have our strengths. It’s a matter of who can execute and take advantage.”

     

    Fells knows that playing in Cameron will be difficult it will be loud, intense and hot. He picked that up even while sitting on the bench two years ago, the last time the Wolfpack played there. It will be something everyone on the Wolfpack roster will have to adjust to quickly. Senior Gavin Grant is the only Wolfpack player who has ever seen action in Cameron.

     

    But Fells is eager. He was disappointed that the Wolfpack didn’t play there last year, especially considering the outcome of the game in Raleigh, a 79-56 whipping that was the most lop-sided outcome of the season for the Wolfpack.

     

    “We wanted to be able to go over there and pay them back for that, but we didn’t get the chance,” Fells said.

     

    That opportunity came in Tampa, in the first round of the ACC Tournament when the 10th-seeded Wolfpack began its march to the championship game with an 85-80 overtime victory over the No. 21 and seventh-seeded Blue Devils.

     

    Can the Wolfpack do the same thing on the Devils’ home court? Fells isn’t bold enough to call that game before tip-off, but he believes his team will compete.

     

    “They are No. 3 in the country and undefeated in the ACC, but we believe we have a chance to go in there and knock them off,” Fells said. “It’s a tough situation, obviously, but it is also a good opportunity for us.”

     

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

     


     

     

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