The 25th-ranked NC State Wolfpack continue an extended homestand to close out the 2012 calendar year, as they welcome the surging St. Bonaventure Bonnies to PNC Arena for a non-conference matchup on Saturday.
Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack came into the season with plenty of hype and visions of an ACC crown. NC State has played well for the most part with wins in eight of its first 10 games. The losses came to a pair of current top-25 programs in Oklahoma State and Michigan, but since the setback to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor, the Wolfpack has strung together four straight wins, including Tuesday's 88-79 victory over Stanford. NC State will close out the 2012 portion of its schedule with games against Western Michigan and UNC Greensboro in Raleigh.
Mark Schmidt's Bonnies are a solid 7-3 on the season, and come into this contest red-hot following back-to-back routs of Cleveland State (87-53) and the Citadel (97-57). It marks the first time that St. Bonaventure has posted 30-plus point victories in consecutive games since the 1969-70 campaign. The Bonnies are seeking their best start (8-3) since 2001-02.
This is just the third meeting between these two teams. St. Bonaventure won the first-ever meeting in the 1970 NCAA Tournament (80-68), en route to the Final Four. NC State tied things up last season, 67-65 in Rochester.
St. Bonaventure displayed a balanced attack in the lopsided win over the Bulldogs, as five Bonnies notched double digits, with the team setting season- highs in scoring, field-goal percentage (.565), assists (26) and steals (13). Demitrius Conger and Chris Johnson tied for team-high honors with 16 points apiece. Marquise Simmons and Eric Mosley were right behind with 15 points each. Youssou Ndoye rounded out the top scorers with 10 points in 15 minutes of work off the bench.
The offensive numbers have certainly begun to head in the right direction following the Bonnies' last two outings. Overall, the team is now averaging 74.4 ppg and doing so in on a decent .458 shooting. Johnson and Conger have been a potent one-two punch in the frontcourt, averaging 14.4 and 14.1 ppg, respectively. Conger has proved to be versatile, as he not only can fill up the basket, but also leads the team in both rebounds (7.7 rpg) and assists (3.3 apg). Mosley has proved to be an asset off the bench with 9.8 ppg.
While St. Bonaventure is just starting to peak offensively, NC State has been there since day one. The Wolfpack are averaging just under 80 points per game this year (79.4), while ranking first in the nation in field-goal percentage (.530). A truly balanced attack features five players in double figures, including four starters. Richard Howell headlines the group and is one of the ACC's top low post players, averaging team-highs of 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, while shooting a ridiculous .675 from the floor. T.J Warren (13.5 ppg) has done most of his damage coming off the bench and is converting an even better .682 from the floor. Forward C.J. Leslie is next in line (13.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) at a mere .580 clip. Point guard Lorenzo Brown is the team catalyst, with the ability to create for himself (12.9 ppg) and others (5.9 apg), while Scott Wood (10.1 ppg) rounds things out with his 3-point acumen (.421, 24-of-57).
Brown put on an offensive clinic in the win over Stanford, scoring 18 of his season-high 24 points in the second half. Howell was once again magnificent inside, with a double-double consisting of 17 points and 12 rebounds. Wood matched Howell's scoring output with 17 points of his own, while Leslie tacked on 16. NC State shot a sterling .561 from the floor in the win and outscored the Cardinal 19-4 at the free-throw line.