Stanford-NC State Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- It's taken some time for North Carolina State to jell, but that hasn't impacted the team's shooting.
However, facing defensive-minded Stanford could.
The 25th-ranked Wolfpack and Cardinal will each go for a season-high fourth consecutive victory when they meet for the second time - and first in Raleigh - on Tuesday night.
With four returning starters and three McDonald's All-Americans brought into the mix, North Carolina State (7-2) was the preseason ACC favorite for the first time in 38 seasons.
The Wolfpack have jumped out to their best start since opening 8-1 three years ago, but this season has also included a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship, a closer-than-expected 82-80 victory over North Carolina-Asheville on Nov. 23 and a 79-72 defeat at then-No. 3 Michigan four days later in their only game against a ranked opponent.
North Carolina State, though, has six players averaging between 9.3 and 14.6 points, depth that could play to its advantage when ACC play begins Jan. 5 at Boston College.
Freshman T.J. Warren had 21 points, Lorenzo Brown added 16 and Richard Howell scored 12 with a career-best 19 rebounds - his third consecutive double-double - as the Wolfpack shot 57.4 percent in Saturday's 84-62 victory over Norfolk State.
N.C. State leads the nation in shooting at 52.7 percent with Warren ranking first (69.1) and Howell fourth (66.7).
"It was tough at the beginning (of the season) because we didn't know what to do with all these scorers on our team," said Brown, who leads the league with 6.0 assists per game. "I think we're getting a little bit better with passing the ball, passing to the right guy at the right time."
That could be key with Stanford (7-3) getting set for its first true road game. The Cardinal are last in the Pac-12 in overall shooting percentage (39.8) and from 3-point range (26.0), but they're holding opponents to 38.3 percent shooting, including a league-best 28.3 from beyond the arc.
"For us, our defense is ahead of our offense right now," said coach Johnny Dawkins, whose team had a season-best 12 steals in Saturday's 75-52 victory over UC Davis. "I believe in our guys, I know we have some good shooters."
Forward Dwight Powell is shooting a career-best 56.3 percent after going 18 of 23 over the last two games. The junior converted his first eight field-goal attempts after halftime and scored all 20 of his points in the final 20 minutes Saturday.
Powell, though, wasn't much of a factor in a 76-72 home win over North Carolina State on Dec. 4, 2011, scoring two points with three boards.
Sophomore point guard Chasson Randle, averaging 14.4 points and 3.2 assists, made all eight of his free-throw attempts and scored 16 points in last season's matchup as Stanford overcame 36.2 percent shooting and a 12-point second-half deficit by hitting 29 of 34 from the line.
North Carolina State has won its four home games by an average of 19.8 points and is 8-0 against visiting non-conference opponents since an 88-72 loss to then-No. 1 Syracuse on Dec. 17, 2011.
Updated December 17, 2012