W. Michigan-NC State Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 28, 2012
With the way it was rolling, North Carolina State might have preferred to play through its week-long holiday break. The 23rd-ranked Wolfpack will try to pick up where they left off and win their sixth straight when they return to action at home against Western Michigan on Saturday. N.C. State (9-2) capped an impressive four-game tear last Saturday when it shot 57.1 percent in a 92-73 victory over St. Bonaventure. After beating Connecticut 69-65 on Dec. 4, the Wolfpack averaged 86.0 points and shot 56.4 percent to win their next four games by an average of 16.7 points. C.J. Leslie finished with a career-high 33 points on 10-of-13 shooting last weekend to become the first N.C. State player to score that many since J.J. Hickson had 33 against Western Carolina in 2008. The junior forward was also the third player to lead the Wolfpack in scoring in as many games after T.J. Warren had 21 points against Norfolk State on Dec. 15 and Lorenzo Brown contributed 24 versus Stanford three days later. "It may be that one person is getting a little bit more and the other person can't get it, but we all have stepped up and led and played fairly well these last couple games," Leslie said. Scott Wood has been especially hot, finishing with a season-high 23 points against the Bonnies on 8-of-10 shooting - including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. The senior forward has scored 40 points and shot 13 of 20 - 10 of 17 from beyond the arc - in his last two games. N.C. State leads the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.4 and ranks in the top 20 with 80.5 points per game. "We are doing a lot of things well," coach Mark Gottfried said. "But I still think there are a lot of areas where we can improve, on how we cut, ball sticks in our hands a little too long at times." Gottfried's team will try to keep it going against the Broncos, who have allowed 71.8 points per game in December after giving up 55.2 last month. Western Michigan (8-4) lost three of four road games, including 73-41 at then-No. 3 Michigan on Dec. 4, before coming back home to beat Mount St. Mary's 87-66 last Saturday. Senior Shayne Whittington scored 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds, giving him averages of 19.7 points and 8.7 boards in his last three games. Freshman Darius Paul added a career-high 19 points, while senior Brandon Pokley had 15. Leading scorer Nate Hutcheson, averaging 12.3 points, will try to bounce back after totaling 12 in his last two games. After finishing with season highs in points, field-goal percentage (60.4) and assists (21), the Broncos look to build on the performance against a North Carolina State team that has limited teams to 40.7 percent shooting during its five-game winning streak. The Wolfpack are going for their eighth straight win at home, where they're averaging 87.2 points in six games this season. While it's the first meeting between these teams, N.C. State is 5-1 all-time against Mid-American Conference opponents.
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