N.C. State preparing for more than UNC Greensboro

csmith@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2012 

— Last season, N.C. State won two out of three games in three days in the ACC Tournament and was able to pull off two wins in a three-day span in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16 in its first appearance in six seasons.

While many believe this year’s team will make it into the big dance, the players said the scenario presented when the Wolfpack plays UNC-Greensboro on Monday – their second game in three days – is useful as preparation for March.

“This definitely prepares us for the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament,” junior forward C.J. Leslie said. “It’s a chance for us to get back to that fast-paced schedule. We’re kind of used to it, but it’s one of those things that will help out in the long run.”

Though their focus is solely on the Spartans, the game will also serve as the final tune-up before the Pack takes on Boston College

For Leslie, who has led the team in scoring in four of the last six contests, the chance to have one more game prior to ACC play starting is yet another reason why Monday’s game offers a unique opportunity for the team.

“The main thing for us right now is obviously keeping the winning streak going,” Leslie said. “We know what we have to do and we want to just keep getting better. It’s very important to go into the ACC with some confidence and games like these are great for us.”

The Spartans have struggled to put together wins this season, holding a 2-8 record, but has played in several close games. Against East Carolina, Virginia Tech and Rutgers, UNC-G lost by an average of six points – including a three-point loss to ECU after holding a 14-point lead in the second half.

While the Pack may use this game as another potential confidence booster heading into the January, coach Mark Gottfried said his team can’t overlook the weapons UNC-G presents.

“They are an uptempo team that can get up and down the court,” Gottfried said. “So our transition defense will be key. They can also shoot the three. They will probably bring a lot of intensity since they are an in-state school and we’ll have to match that intensity.”

Gottfried also pointed out the leadership on his team will be important against Greensboro.

“I’m sure our players are anxious to get into ACC play,” he said. “But I think we have enough veteran players that get it. They understand that you have to play well every night.”

One of those leaders is senior forward Scott Wood, who is one of five players averaging double digits in points.

The senior said he is focusing on the Spartans the same as he would any ACC opponent.

“You just have to go out there and, no matter who the team is, have the mindset that you’re going to get it done,” Wood said. “Obviously we all want to get to the ACC season and see where that leads us, but I don’t think anyone is going to be looking ahead.”

As for the distraction of playing on New Year’s Eve, Wood said fans shouldn’t be worried at all about that either.

“Most of the time I’m asleep by midnight regardless,” Wood said with a smile. “New Year’s comes and it goes. It’s not that important to me.”

With the football team playing in the Music City Bowl prior to the contest, Gottfried hopes his team can compliment a bowl win with a win just before the new year.

“For those that don’t go to Nashville, we hope they’ll be at the game,” Gottfried said. “Hopefully it turns out to be a good day for everybody. We’re hoping the football team can get a win and we can turn around and do the same.”

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