Good things don’t usually happen for N.C. State when it goes on the road in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Wolfpack has lost seven of the eight road games in the made-for-ESPN series. Its only road win came at Purdue in 1999, the first year of the Challenge.
1. Freshman finds his fire
Freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored a total of 23 points in his first two college games. Then he went to the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands and has averaged 24 points per game since, including a season-best 30 in Saturday’s 79-77 win over Loyola-Chicago.
Smith said he got his “fire” back at the Paradise Jam. When asked where his fire was, Smith joked: “My back pocket, I went and pulled it out.”
Smith’s fire includes his touch from behind the 3-point line. He has made 40 percent (8 of 20) of his 3-point shots since missing his first seven 3s to start the season.
2. Stopping Hill
Either Terry Henderson or Torin Dorn will have their hands full on defense with Illinois senior guard Malcolm Hill. Hill leads the Illini with 18.3 points amd 7.3 rebounds per game. He went for his average in a 72-61 loss to Florida State in New York on Nov. 25. N.C. State’s defense has struggled with the pick-and-roll. Hill and sophomore forward Michael Finke (11.0 ppg) might be able to exploit the Wolfpack in the middle.
3. Help for the “Rescue Squad”
Smith, Henderson and Dorn, also known as the “Rescue Squad,” scored all but 10 of N.C. State’s points in the win over Loyola. Sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu or freshman forward Ted Kapita will have to help more in order for N.C. State to pick up a win in its first true road game of the season.
NC State at Illinois
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Where: State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.
TV/radio: ESPNU, 101.5-WRAL