State Now

NC State will have this one big thing on its side for its game against No. 2 Duke

N.C. State’s Abdul-Malik Abu slams in two in the Wolfpack’s 87-75 win over Duke on Jan. 11, 2015.
N.C. State’s Abdul-Malik Abu slams in two in the Wolfpack’s 87-75 win over Duke on Jan. 11, 2015. ehyman@newsobserver.com

Life on the road in the ACC wasn’t kind to N.C. State over the last seven days.

After lopsided losses to Clemson and Notre Dame, the Wolfpack will play against No. 2 Duke at PNC Arena Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd.

Against the Blue Devils, N.C. State faces another serious challenge. But Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts isn’t trying to over hype his first taste of what the Triangle’s ACC rivalries are all about.

“It’s the next game,” Keatts said Friday. “It’s ACC. We’ve played two really good basketball teams on their home floor. Now we have the opportunity to come home.”

The Wolfpack (10-5, 0-2 ACC) lost 78-62 at Clemson on Dec. 30 and 88-58 at Notre Dame Wednesday night.

N.C. State 6-0, 180-pound freshman guard Braxton Beverly looks forward to the crowd being on the Wolfpack’s side for a change.

“A lot of people. Loud,” Beverly said. “Like, the first two games at Clemson and Notre Dame it was a loud atmosphere and their gyms are, probably, half the size of ours. It’s going to be a lot of people, a lot of people. It’s going to be fun, though.”

This will be Keatts’ first experience with a sold-out home environment as the Wolfpack’s coach. N.C. State’s largest home crowd previously was 15,270 for an 85-78 win over Penn State on Nov. 29.

Players like senior forwards Abdul-Malik Abu (6-8, 240) and Lennard Freeman (6-8, 265) have seen these kind of games before though. Both played against Duke, ranked No. 2 at the time, on Jan. 11, 2015, when the Wolfpack beat the Blue Devils 87-75 at the PNC Arena in front out of a crowd of 19,500.

Over the last week, Keatts has implored his veterans to do more to help the team. On Saturday night, they’ll get the chance on a big stage against a Duke team with national championship hopes.

“We’re not as talented as those guys,” Keatts said. “So we have to count on our experience, and some of our veteran guys, who have obviously played in games like this before, have to step up.”

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

Duke at NC State

When: 8 p.m.

Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh

TV: ESPN

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