The North Carolina State Wolfpack, coming off a spectacular upset victory, will try for another one on Saturday when they play host to the eighth-ranked Florida State Seminoles in Raleigh, N.C.
N.C. State defeated the sixth-ranked Duke Blue Devils 88-66 on Wednesday, putting the Wolfpack (17-9, 8-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble while giving them a signature win.
Two Wolfpack players earned their career highs in points against Duke — Markell Johnson (28) and Devon Daniels (25).
“We knew this was a big game,” Daniels told reporters afterward. “We really locked in on (Duke’s) tendencies.”
The Wolfpack will have to do the same against the Seminoles (22-4, 12-3).
N.C. State will rely on a pair of seniors: 6-foot-5 wing C.J. Bryce, who leads the team in scoring (13.7) and rebounds (6.3), and Johnson, a 6-1 point guard who tops the team in assists (6.4) and steals (1.9) while ranking second in points (13.2).
Daniels, a 6-5 junior wing, averages 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds. DJ Funderburk, a 6-10, 225-pound junior, leads NC State in two-point field-goal percentage (63.5), and he is averaging 12.6 points and 6.0 rebounds as the Wolfpack’s key player in the frontcourt.
When the Wolfpack last played Florida State — a 78-73 NC State loss at Tallahassee last March — Funderburk had a team-high 18 points and nine rebounds.
Two players who did well for FSU in that game are back this season — 6-4 senior point guard Trent Forrest and 6-5 junior wing M.J. Walker. Those two combined in that game for 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists, making 9 of 16 from the floor and hitting all nine combined free throws.
FSU’s leading scorer and rebounder this season is 6-6 sophomore wing Devin Vassell, who is averaging 13.0 points and 5.3 boards.
Forrest leads the team in assists (4.3) and steals (2.1) while ranking second in scoring (11.6). Walker is the only other FSU player averaging double figures in points (10.5).
But NC State will surely have several volumes of scouting-report information prepared on reserve forward Pat Williams, a 6-8, 215-pound freshman.
Williams, known for elite athleticism and a high basketball IQ, scored 16 points in FSU’s most recent game, an 82-67 home win over Pitt on Tuesday. He has scored in double figures 10 times this season, including four in his past five games.
“Confidence comes with experience,” said Williams, who is emerging as a possible NBA first-round pick. “The game has slowed down for me. I’ve been able to think the game more.”
In making 7 of 12 shots from the floor on Tuesday, Williams caught the attention of Pitt coach Jeff Capel.
“He’s really starting to blossom,” Capel said of Williams. “There’s a reason why he’s looked at as one of the top guys, potentially, for the NBA Draft.”
Meanwhile, the Seminoles, who are a lock for the NCAA Tournament, have not lost two straight games all season. They will enter Saturday on a two-game win streak and a 15-2 record over their last 17.
–Field Level Media