The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team hopes to accomplish something they have not done since Ronald Reagan was President — beat North Carolina State away from Cassell Coliseum.
The Hokies (18-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are 2-6 against the Wolfpack (14-10, 2-7 ACC) since joining the ACC and have not defeated them away from home since the 1983-84 season.
Tech is also seeking its third straight ACC victory in less than a week after victories over North Carolina and Clemson. While the Hokies boast a 12-0 record at Cassell Coliseum this year, they have a 1-3 record against ACC opponents on the road. Their last ACC road game resulted in a loss to Miami on Jan. 31.
“We’ve got eight games left and like I’m going to tell our guys now, those past eight games have nothing to do with the next eight,” said Tech head coach Seth Greenberg.
“We’ve just got to try to continue to get better, and obviously we need to improve offensively. I don’t think we’re going to win too many more games where we shoot 15 percent in the first half.”
NC State sits at the bottom of the ACC standings, but has dealt with its fair share of bad breaks in losing four of their last five games.
Back on Jan. 3 against Florida, the Wolfpack lost on a 75-foot overtime buzzer-beater by Chandler Parsons. In their last game against Georgia Tech, NC State had two clean looks at the basket to either tie or beat the Yellow Jackets but could not hit either.
“We shot the ball well (in their win against No. 6 Duke) and that has been a major problem here lately; just not making shots,” said NC State head coach Sidney Lowe. “I think the execution the guys have done a good job of … getting those looks and it’s just been unfortunate.”
The Hokies are all too familiar with NC State’s late-game woes. Last season, Tech was 4-8 in games decided by four points or fewer. So far this season, however, the Hokies are 3-0 in those close contests.
“I think once you win a couple of those, the kids have a sense that what they’re doing, and obviously ... your practice the next day is a little better,” Greenberg said. “The energy just in terms of their approach and how they feel about themselves is better. You feed off of that and it’s sure nice to be on the right end of some of those.
“You’ve got to be a little lucky and you’ve got to make some plays at the end of games. You got to get some stops and you’ve got to stop people from banking them in from
half-court and everything else that has happened to us.”
Last season, the Hokies and Wolfpack met once during the season at Cassell Coliseum. Jeff Allen scored 21 points and pulled down eight rebounds in Tech’s 91-87 overtime victory.
NC State’s top-3 scorers from last year all graduated or entered the NBA Draft. The combination of Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, and Courtney Fells contributed 37 points per game, or 50.7 percent of NC State’s offense. This year, the Wolfpack looks to another experienced crowd to lead them in scoring.
Junior forward Tracy Smith leads the Wolfpack with 17.6 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds per game. Smith hails from Mt. Zion Christian Academy in Durham, N.C., which has cultivated a number of NBA products including Tracy McGrady and Brandon Rush.
Besides Smith, the Wolfpack rely on senior forward Dennis Horner, who adds length at 6 feet 9 inches tall. He also adds versatility, shooting 37.3 percent from three-point range. Junior guard Javier Gonzaelz also contributes 10.2 points per game and shoots 39.8 percent from downtown.