Wolfpack set to pounce on visiting Spartans

Dec 15, 2012 - 3:56 PM Raleigh, NC (Sports Network) - The 25th-ranked NC State Wolfpack continue their season-long, six-game homestand on Saturday night when they take on the Norfolk State Spartans at PNC Arena.

After dropping four of its first five games, Norfolk State bounced back with four-game win streak to move above .500 for the first time this season. The Spartans faced their most difficult task of the year on Tuesday night when they traveled the Champaign to take on No. 10 Illinois, and not surprisingly, their winning streak came to an end with a 64-54 loss.

NC State won its first three games and rose to No. 6 in the AP poll, but following losses to Oklahoma State (76-56) and Michigan (79-72), it fell all the way to No. 25. The Wolfpack has bounced back of late with two straight wins over UConn (69-65) and Cleveland State (69-65).

The Wolfpack won the only previous meeting between these two teams, 81-63, back in February of 1998.

Norfolk State's offensive output has been modest at best this season (.416 field goal percentage, 65.2 ppg), but against one of the nation's elite teams, it was even worse. The Spartans shot just 38.2 percent from the floor in the 10-point loss to Illinois, including 6-of-23 from 3-point range (.261). Rashid Gaston provided a spark off the bench with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Pendarvis Williams added 11 points, five boards and three steals. They are without an explosive scorer, as Williams leads the way with just 12.0 ppg, and although he is only a 42.2 percent shooter, he has been nearly automatic from the free throw line (29-of-31). Malcolm Hawkins has made a team-high 16 3- pointers at a 38.1 percent clip en route to 11.7 ppg, and Rob Johnson adds 10.1 ppg. Although they aren't consistent contributors on the scoreboard, both Gaston (7.1 rpg) and Jamel Fuentes (5.7 apg) are crucial cogs in NSU's attack.

Behind the second-ranked field goal percentage in the nation (.521), NC State has gotten off to a fantastic start, putting up just shy of 78 ppg. The theme continued in the 17-point win over Cleveland State, as it shot nearly 55 percent from the floor. C.J. Leslie tallied 19 points and eight rebounds in the victory, and Richard Howell had a double-double consisting of 17 points and 10 rebounds. T.J. Warren shot 6-of-8 from the field to turn in 16 points off the bench, and Rodney Purvis (11 points) and Lorenzo Brown (10 points, six assists) were also productive. The Wolfpack are one of the deepest teams in the country, as they have six players who net at least 9.8 ppg. Howell (14.4 ppg) and Warren (13.8 ppg) have both been outstanding in making better than 67 percent of their field goal attempts, while Howell also grabs a team-high 8.4 rpg. Leslie (13.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg) has also been a reliable asset in the frontcourt, and Brown (11.1 ppg) does a great job distributing the ball with 5.9 apg. Purvis (9.8 ppg) and Scott Wood (9.8 ppg) have combined to drain 28- of-63 from 3-point range.

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