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Notre Dame Basketball: NC State Game Preview

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A lot has changed since the last time The Irish met the Wolfpack a month ago...

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Notre Dame Fighting Irish clashed with the NC State Wolfpack was pretty much the last highlight of the season.

In its first game without Bonzie Colson after his injury, Notre Dame dominated the Wolfpack at Purcell Pavilion, 88-58. T.J. Gibbs led the way with 22 points, D.J. Harvey added 17 and Rex Pflueger had 16 in spite of losing Matt Farrell early in the game when he rolled his ankle. With the win, Mike Brey became the winningest men’s basketball coach in school history.

Since then the Fighting Irish* are 1-6, Harvey is out indefinitely with a knee injury and Farrell is out with an ankle injury (though he is a game-time decision). Simply put, the “luck of the Irish” hasn’t been good.

Notre Dame will get another crack at the Wolfpack at their home den on Saturday and are desperate for something... anything... to go their way.

*In the past I’ve called Notre Dame “the Irish” on second reference for short hand. From now on I will only be referring to them as the Fighting Irish because Max Kellerman is a sellout.

Quick Facts:

  • Notre Dame and NC State will be meeting for the 13th time, with the Fighting Irish leading the series 8-4.
  • Notre Dame is 5-0 on the road at NC State.
  • T.J. Gibbs and Syracuse’s Tyus Battle are the only players to average 40 minutes per game in ACC play.
  • Notre Dame has out-rebounded seven of its nine ACC opponents this season. Five of those have been 40+ rebound performances, a school record for ACC play.
  • Notre Dame has shot below 40 percent in the seven games since it last met NC State.
  • In the five games in which Colson and Farrell have not played, T.J. Gibbs is averaging 19.4 points, 5.2 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game.

WHEN: Saturday, February 3, 2018, Noon ET

WHERE: PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina

HOW TO WATCH: ESPN2 national broadcast with Mike Couzens and Cory Alexander. Also available on the WatchESPN app.

Notre Dame Basketball Radio Network with Jack Nolan and Zach Hillesland. Available locally on WSBT AM 960/FM 96.1, worldwide on WatchND.tv and via network affiliates.

NC State Wolfpack (15-7, 5-4 ACC):

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolfpack are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season with a 95-91 victory over North Carolina (which is overrated if you ask me). Grad-student guard Allerik Freeman dropped a career-high 29 points and was named the ACC Player of the Week, while junior guard Torin Dorn and sophomore guard Markell Johnson both added 20 points.

Since its last meeting with Notre Dame, NC State has also beaten Duke and Clemson. The Wolfpack have played eight games against top-20 RPI teams this season, which is the most in the country. With four wins in those games, NC State has the second-most wins against the top 20.

The Wolfpack have found success by relying on their defense. They are 5-0 in ACC play when they have fewer turnovers than their opponents, and 0-4 when they have more turnovers than opponents. In half their games this season they have forced 16+ turnovers, and forced 20+ turnovers four times. With an average of 15.5 forced turnovers per game, NC State leads the ACC and ranks in the top-50 in the nation.

NC State also has a balanced scoring attack, including consistency from its bench. Nine members of the Wolfpack average 16+ minutes per game, and the bench has outscored the opponent’s bench in 14 of 22 games.

The Wolfpack have been rebounding the ball well since conference play began too. They have out-rebounded six of their nine ACC opponents, and their 13.5 offensive rebounds per game rank third in the league.

The Fighting Irish will give themselves the best chance to win if they can hold the Wolfpack to fewer than 70 points. All 15 of NC State’s wins have come with more than 70 points scored, and its record in games when scoring 69 or fewer is 0-5.

Wolf to Watch:

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Omer Yurtseven, C, Sophomore

Yurtseven has been the Wolfpack’s best player in ACC games this year. The 7-footer is averaging 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in league play while shooting 57.4 percent from the floor. He’s even better in ACC home games, averaging 23.8 points on 64.1 percent shooting.

The sophomore can also stretch the floor, shooting 7-14 from three-point range in ACC games. In the Wolfpack’s win against Clemson, Yurtseven had a career-high 29 points on 12 of 18 from the floor and five of six from behind the arc. He was widely regarded as a five-star recruit when he came from Turkey as a freshman last year, and was named on the preseason watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabar Center of the Year award this season.

Irish X-Factor:

Martinas Geben, C, Senior

After Geben burst onto the scene in the absence of Colson, he has tapered off in Notre Dame’s last few games. Since his 22 point, 17 rebound performance against Louisville, Geben has averaged just 9.3 points and 7 rebounds per game in the last three games.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In Notre Dame’s matchup with NC State a month ago, Geben got the best of Yurtseven in the paint. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds compared to Yurtseven’s four points and four rebounds. If Geben can manage a double-double while out-rebounding Yurtseven again, the Fighting Irish should be in good shape.

Prediction:

Notre Dame 74 - NC State 65

The Fighting Irish have to break this losing streak sometime, and they match up pretty well with the Wolfpack. Sure, NC State has some big wins, but the last time they came off a full-week break they dropped a game to UNC Greensboro. Both teams have been rebounding the ball well, playing good defense and taking care of the basketball, and the Fighting Irish always have the potential to get hot from three-point range. The Wolfpack, on the other hand, are shooting just 33 percent from deep in ACC play. If Matt Farrell plays I will be even more confident, but either way Notre Dame can win this game.