Wolfpack faces tough test with Fighting Irish

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 7, 2014 

N.C. State, NC State, Wolfpack, UNC-Greensboro, North Carolina,

N.C. State's Anthony "Cat" Barber (2) drives to the basket as UNC-Greensboro's Jordan Potts (20) defends during the first half of N.C. State's game against UNC-Greensboro at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C., Monday, December 30, 2013.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

  • N.C. State at Notre Dame

    When: 9 p.m.

    Where: Joyce Center, South Bend, Ind.

    TV/Radio: WRAL, 101.5-WRAL

    Projected starting lineups

    N.C. State (10-4, 0-1 ACC)

    G Cat Barber 12.0 ppg, 4.7 apg

    G Desmond Lee 10.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg

    F T.J. Warren 23.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg

    F Lennard Freeman 4.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg

    F Jordan Vandenberg 6.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg

    Notre Dame (10-4, 1-0)

    G Demetrius Jackson 7.4 ppg, 2.0 apg

    G Eric Atkins 13.6 ppg, 4.9 apg

    F Pat Connaughton 13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg

    F Zach Auguste 6.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg

    F Garrick Sherman 14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg

    Player to watch

    Cat Barber, guard, N.C. State

    The freshman point guard made some big shots and really complemented T.J. Warren well during the Wolfpack’s best stretch in December. Barber needs to stay out of foul trouble and rediscover his shooting touch to help N.C. State avoid an 0-2 ACC start.

    Observations

    Jerian Grant was a monster for Notre Dame, averaging 19 points, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals in the first 12 games. It’s a testament to its homecourt advantage that the Irish were able to knock off Duke without Grant. You do have to wonder how long Notre Dame can go before missing Grant, though. … Senior forward Jordan Vandenberg has struggled (eight total points, 12 rebounds in three games) since scoring 18 against East Carolina on Dec. 21. The Wolfpack will need Vandenberg to play well against forward Garrick Sherman, who has become the focal point of the offense without Grant.

    Joe Giglio

Sub-freezing temperatures and snowy winter storms paralyzed most major Midwest airports Monday, but N.C. State’s basketball team was able to safely fly to Notre Dame.

The Wolfpack chartered a flight directly into South Bend, Ind., which helped avoid traveling snarls in Chicago and Indianapolis. The Wolfpack (10-4, 0-1 ACC) will even get a chance to shoot-around at Notre Dame (10-4, 1-0) on Tuesday afternoon before its 9 p.m. tipoff.

The smooth travel into wintry Indiana put coach Mark Gottfried ahead of his last trip to Notre Dame. In December 2006, Gottfried’s Alabama team got delayed a day going to Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide arrived the day of the game, missed the shoot-around and then got blitzed by the Fighting Irish 99-85.

Gottfried said his Alabama team never found a rhythm. He has talked with his Wolfpack players about tuning out distractions.

“That’s something we try to talk about all year long,” Gottfried said. “You have to play through all types of things.”

He wants to keep his team focused. He knows his team will have its hands full with the Fighting Irish, who have gone 76-8 at home the past 41/2 seasons.

The Irish won their first ACC game at the Joyce Center, 79-77 on Saturday against then-No. 7 Duke. Notre Dame lost its best player, guard Jerian Grant, to an academic suspension after its 64-61 loss to Ohio State on Dec. 21.

Since Grant’s absence, Notre Dame has beaten Canisius in overtime and Duke, both at home. Senior forward Garrick Sherman has done more in the middle, with 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds the past two games, and guard Eric Atkins has picked up the slack outside with 24.5 points and 9.0 assists without Grant.

“We know we’re going to play a really good Notre Dame team,” Gottfried said. “They had a phenomenal win and we’re coming off a tough loss.”

N.C. State dropped its ACC opener 74-62 to Pittsburgh at home on Saturday. The Wolfpack led by 15 points in the opening minutes but fell apart in the second half, getting out-scored 48-28 by the tougher Panthers.

“We didn’t play nearly as well as we’d like in the second half,” Gottfried said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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