Road trip will show what Wolfpack has learned

jgiglio@newsobserver.comDecember 17, 2013 

  • N.C. State at Tennessee

    When: 7 p.m.

    Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.

    TV/Radio: ESPNU, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    Tennessee (6-3)

    G Antonio Barton 7.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg

    G Jordan McRae 19.6 ppg, 2.2 apg

    G Josh Richardson 7.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg

    F Jeronne Maymon 9.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg

    F Jarnell Stokes 14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg

    N.C. State (7-2)

    G Cat Barber 12.0 ppg, 3.8 apg

    G Desmond Lee 10.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 23.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg

    F Lennard Freeman 4.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg

    F Jordan Vandenberg 8.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg

    Player to watch

    Jordan Vandenberg, forward, N.C. State

    The senior forward has given the Wolfpack a boost since his return from an ankle injury. The 7-footer will get his toughest test yet in Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes, who’s a smidge undersized at 6-8 but a strong space-eater at 260 pounds. Vandenberg will have to defend and stay out of foul trouble for the Wolfpack to be successful.


    The Vols already have a win over an ACC team, 82-63 over Wake Forest in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. They went 2-1 in the tournament, with a loss to UTEP and their other win over Xavier. Tennessee opened their season with a loss at Xavier. ... N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried had a 9-5 record against the Vols as Alabama’s coach. ... ESPN analyst Dan Dakich, who was critical of N.C. State last November in the Puerto Rico tournament, is working the game for ESPNU.

    Joe Giglio

— After a seven-game homestand, N.C. State will play half of its final four nonconference games on the road.

The Wolfpack (7-2) travels to Tennessee on Wednesday and goes to UNC-Greensboro on Dec. 30 before opening ACC play with Pittsburgh at PNC Arena on Jan. 4.

Last Saturday’s 82-79 win over Detroit, the Pack’s first game against a team in the top 100 of the RPI, was N.C. State’s fifth straight since a home loss to N.C. Central on Nov. 20.

The Wolfpack went 6-1 on the homestand, five of the wins were by double digits.

“We’ll see what we have learned,” coach Mark Gottfried said after the Detroit win at Reynolds Coliseum.

Gottfried was pleased with how his team shot from 3-point range, the Pack made a season-high 10, including six from junior guard Ralston Turner, and how his team attacked Detroit’s zone.

“If we are going to get zoned, we are going to step up and make shots,” Gottfried said. “When you make 3s, you always feel better about it. I do think our perimeter guys were much better tonight looking for the open 3. We did a good job getting them those shots.”

But Gottfried wasn’t happy with how his team defended in the second half. The Titans scored 51 points and shot 57.1 percent in the final 20 minutes and had a shot at the buzzer to force overtime after trailing by as many as 18 points.

“Our help-side defense has to get better,” Gottfried said.

He also noted his team has to stay out of foul trouble. Freshman guard Cat Barber only played 16 minutes and spent most of the game in foul trouble. Senior forward Jordan Vandenberg fouled out after 21 minutes.

“We have to be smarter at times to not find ourselves in those tough spots,” Gottfried said.

The Wolfpack hasn’t been on the road since a 68-57 loss at Cincinnati on Nov. 12. Gottfried’s teams have yet to win a nonconference game on an opponent’s home court. The Pack also lost at Stanford in the 2011-12 season and at Michigan last season.

Gottfried’s first two teams had a combined 8-11 road record. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren is the only regular contributor back from last year’s team, which went 3-7 on the road.

The Volunteers (6-3) are the second top-100 team on the Pack’s schedule. Tennessee, ranked No. 75 at the start of the week in the RPI, is the first of 14 games the Wolfpack will play against the top 100, and half of those games will be on the road.

Missouri (No. 19) is the highest-ranked RPI team N.C. State will face before ACC play begins. The Wolfpack gets the Tigers at home on Dec. 28.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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