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Wolfpack-Hokies, part II: Can NC State complete the season sweep?

Giving the home fans a win one of these days would be nice.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Virginia Tech Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Fifteen days ago, NC State traveled to Virginia Tech and picked up its first conference win of the season, and tonight it will go for its first home conference win of the season when it hosts the Hokies.

The circumstances haven’t changed for either team in the last couple of weeks—both remained mired near the bottom of the league standings and in dire need of stringing some wins together. Virginia Tech just won its first ACC game over the weekend after an 0-4 start, while State is 2-2 since an 0-3 start.

State won the first meeting between these two teams, 68-63.

What went right NC State in the first game

— Quick starts: NC State scored the first seven points of the game in Blackburg and led 20-13 after the first 10 minutes. The Wolfpack outscored Tech 25-17 over the opening 10 minutes of the second half, in the process turning a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead over a four-minute span.

— Dereon Seabron, Terquavion Smith, and Jericole Hellems combined to score 53 points. Hellems shot 3-6 from three and played all 40 minutes; Seabron was 7-12 inside the arc; and Smith was 4-9 from outside.

— When those guys are productive, NC State is probably going to have a good game offensively. The Pack averaged 1.15 points per possession against Tech, and shot the ball above its normal rates both inside and out.

— Turnovers were a wash but State ended up with a huge advantage on the glass: the Pack grabbed nearly 44% of its missed shots and limited Tech to an offensive rebounding rate of 26.7.

What could have gone better for NC State in the first game

— Ebe Dowuona struggled with foul trouble throughout and turned the ball over three times.

— Not surprisingly, Keve Aluma had a nice game in the paint, scoring 18 points to lead his team. He also grabbed four offensive rebounds.

— NC State scored its 29th point of the first half with 5:11 remaining; at halftime, it still had 29 points. The Hokies went on a 17-0 run that spanned those five minutes and the start of the second half.

Parting thoughts

NC State should be encouraged by the fact that it beat the Hokies while the Hokies weren’t exactly having an off night: they shot 50% from two and 34.8% from three. The worry is that Tech will shoot closer to its season average from three (39.3%) the second go ‘round, which would be a slight problem.

State also is unlikely to rebound 44% of its missed shots again, so it’ll be imperative again that the guys keep their turnover number low. They’re more than capable of that, and I see no reason why Seabron can’t thrive again against Tech’s defense, which isn’t notably big or athletic.

Figure we’re in for another close one unless the Hokies go off from outside. KenPom has Tech by three.