GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies conclude a three-game homestand when they welcome the NC State Wolfpack to Cassell Coliseum for an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.
NC State will wrap up a three-game road swing, marking the first time since 1991 that it played three straight ACC games on the road. The Wolfpack suffered a narrow, 56-55 loss at top-ranked Syracuse last weekend, then followed that up with a 73-56 setback at Clemson this past Tuesday. Following this contest, they'll wrap up the regular season with three of their final games on their home floor at PNC Arena.
It has been a trying season for Virginia Tech, which enters the game with losses in 11 of its last 12 outings. The Hokies battled hard against No. 14 Virginia earlier this week, only to fall by a 57-53 margin.
NC State has won the last three head-to-head meetings with VT and owns a 37-14 lead in the all-time series. The Wolfpack bounced the Hokies from last year's ACC Tournament in an 80-63 final.
The Wolfpack were unable to overcome a 10-0 second-half run by Clemson in Tuesday's game. The loss spoiled yet another big night from NC State's T.J. Warren, who racked up 20 points and continues to lead the ACC in scoring with 23.0 ppg. It marked the 21st time this season that Warren hit the 20-point mark, no doubt an impressive feat for any player, let alone a sophomore. He leads the league in field-goal percentage (.520) and offensive rebounds (79), while ranking sixth in steals (40), and eighth in both rebounds (7.2/game) and minutes (34.6/game). There is a rather large gap between Warren and the team's second-leading scorer, Ralston Turner, a 38.4-percent 3-point shooter who averages 10.4 ppg. Turner, a transfer from LSU, has averaged 12.4 ppg in 12 starts.
On the other end of the floor, Virginia Tech has stepped up defensively over the last two games. Last Saturday, the Hokies held Miami to 25.9-percent shooting from the floor, which was their lowest opponent's field-goal percentage since joining the ACC in 2004-05. They followed that up by limiting nationally-ranked Virginia to a 39.2-percent success rate. Tech led for most of that game but was unable to sustain an 11-point lead over the final 14 minutes and change. Joey van Zegeren (seven rebounds) and Devin Wilson shared team-high scoring honors with 13 points apiece in the loss, while Wilson also dished out his 114th assist to break the school's single-season freshman record. The Hokies will need another strong defensive effort here as they'll once again be without second-leading scorer Adam Smith (11.0 ppg), who is out with a left calf strain.
Both of these teams sputtered down the stretch of their last game after starting strong. While NC State has the talent to pick itself back up, the Hokies have been mostly unable to stop one poor performance from spilling over to their next game.
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