It has been been 15 years, almost to the day, since N.C. State won its only road game in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Justin Gainey’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 15 seconds left was the winner in a 61-59 victory over 19th-ranked Purdue at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The Wolfpack, then coached by Herb Sendek, trailed by 12 points in the second half but used a full-court press to create turnovers to claw back into the game.
Gainey now is the director of basketball operations at Marquette. And the Wolfpack is back at Mackey, again facing Purdue on Tuesday and looking to go 7-0 for the season.
Since the victory over the Boilermakers on Dec. 1, 1999, N.C. State has lost road games in the Challenge at Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Michigan again. The Michigan State (81-58 in 2007) and Wisconsin (87-48 in 2010) games were blowouts.
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The Wolfpack is 5-2 at home in the Challenge, including a 60-53 win against Purdue in November 2004.
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said Monday that history means little to him or his team in preparing for Tuesday’s game.
“We won’t talk about any of that,” he said. “Our message is we need to play well and take care of our business.
“I hope our league can do well. Our league needs to step up across the board and have good showing in the Challenge.”
Gottfried’s focus is on dealing with Purdue’s Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons, both 7-footers. Hammons’ jump-hook in the final seconds of overtime was the winner in an 87-85 victory Nov. 26 against Brigham Young in the Maui Invitational, where Purdue also lost a close game to Kansas State and romped past Missouri.
“This is going to be a test for our inside guys,” Gottfried said. “They have two 7-footers who can score. We’ve been fairly consistent on the perimeter, but our biggest challenge will be defending their bigs. We need more consistency inside and we need to stay out of foul trouble.”
After playing six games at PNC Arena, it will be the first road test of the season for N.C. State. The Wolfpack was pushed in its past three games, needing to make plays and hit big shots late to top South Florida, Richmond and Boise State.
The Boilermakers (5-1) have balanced scoring, with four players averaging double figures, and they have hit 45 3-pointers in shooting 38.8 percent from the arc. Vince Edwards, a 6-foot-7 freshman, had 25 points against BYU.
In each of Gottfried’s first three seasons, the Wolfpack has lost its first true road game, at Stanford, Michigan and Cincinnati.
But Gottfried likes the feel of his team going to West Lafayette, Ind.
“With the perimeter players that we have, and their experience, we should be OK,” he said.
If the Wolfpack wins, it would mark its first 7-0 start since the 2004-05 season, when it began 8-0.