Game Preview: Notre Dame vs. NC State

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame (10-4) earned an important road win on Saturday, beating Syracuse 88-87 in the Carrier Dome, and now the Irish will look to pick up another one when they travel to Raleigh, N.C. to take on the NC State Wolfpack (10-4).

GAME INFO

Start Time: 7:00 PM Eastern
TV: ESPN2 (Mike Couzens, play-by-play - Seth Greenberg, analyst)

THE OPPONENT

NC State opened the season with a disappointing home loss to Georgia Tech but won eight of its next nine contests. It lost a tough road battle at Auburn and is coming off an 81-70 loss at Clemson. The Wolfpack and Irish have identical records, with both heading into this matchup 10-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play. NC State is 8-1 at home and has won eight straight since the loss to the Yellow Jackets.

NC State has played its last two games without leading scorer CJ Bryce (concussion), who is listed as day-to-day.

The Wolfpack have been a strong offensive team, ranking second in the ACC in points per game (80.2) and field goal percentage (47.2). A key to its offensive success has been a balanced scoring attack. NC State has five players averaging double figures and eight different players are scoring at least six points per game.

Bench scoring has been a key for NC State. Eight different players have started games this season, but Jericole Hellems, DJ Funderburke and Devon Daniels have primarily been coming off the bench, and each is averaging in double figures.

Funderburke and Daniels have been playing especially well in recent games.

The 6-10 Funderburke has scored in double figures in each of his last four games, averaging 15.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game during that stretch. Funderburke has made 71.4-percent of his shots from the floor in those four contests.

Daniels has started three straight games, scoring 15.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 53.1-percent from the floor and 60-percent from behind the arc.

Forward Mario Bates leads the ACC in blocked shots (3.21 per game).

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Despite the victory over Syracuse the Irish are still just 1-2 in league play and #13 Louisville heads to South Bend for a Saturday matchup. Pulling off back to back road wins over two quality opponents would be huge for the Irish, and NC State has won two of three against the Irish in recent seasons.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

The down low matchup will be one to watch, but the matchup I’m most looking forward to is veteran NC State guard Markell Johnson against Irish sophomore Prentiss Hubb.

Johnson is a quality all-around player that is averaging 12.9 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per contest and is second in the ACC in assists at 6.8 per game. Johnson struggled out of the gate, scoring just 22 combined points in the first three games, including a 1-8 performance in the season-opening loss to Georgia Tech. Since then he’s averaged 14.6 points per game, reaching double digits in each game.

The veteran point guard had 17 points and 10 assists in the Dec. 19 loss at Auburn, and three days later had a triple double (11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in a win over The Citadel. He then scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out six assists in the win over Appalachian State.

Hubb has been quite up-and-down this season, and Notre Dame will need him to be on top of his game against Johnson. He scored 20 points and dished out six assists in the win over UCLA, but in the next game - a loss to Indiana - Hubb scored just five points and had three turnovers.

The sophomore started off poorly against Syracuse but caught fire in the second half. After getting a technical foul in the second half that gave the Orange some momentum, Hubb knocked down a big three and made a number of clutch plays as the Irish came from behind for the win.

Following that up with a strong performance in a matchup against one of the top point guards in the league would be a huge momentum builder for Hubb. It’s also key to Notre Dame earning a victory.

NC STATE LINEUP

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NOTRE DAME LINEUP

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SCHEDULES/RESULTS

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