Raleigh, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The eighth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish aim for their fourth win in a row on Sunday as they tangle with the NC State Wolfpack in ACC action at PNC Arena.
Notre Dame, which has lost just two of 20 outings this season, is one of the top performers in the ACC with six victories in seven tries. The lone setback during the stretch was a 62-56 loss to undefeated and second-ranked Virginia at home on Jan. 10. Since that defeat, the Irish have logged three consecutive triumphs, the latest being an 85-60 thrashing of Virginia Tech three nights ago in Blacksburg.
At 18-2, the Fighting Irish are off to their best 20-game start since the 1973-74 campaign when they were 19-1 out of the chute.
The Wolfpack has been one of the most inconsistent teams in college basketball this season. Even though the team is 13-7 overall and one game over .500 (4-3) in league play, NC State has been alternating wins and losses over the last 12 games. The last time the Wolfpack registered back-to-back wins was against Wake Forest and Charleston Southern during the first half of December.
More recently, NC State was tripped up by Miami on the road this past Thursday night, 65-60.
The series between the teams is tied at four games apiece, with NC State winning the most recent encounter last season, 77-70, on the road in Indiana.
Except for Steve Vasturia who finished with seven points before fouling out, every starter scored in double figures for the Irish in the win over VaTech, beginning with Jerian Grant with 18 points, to go along with seven boards and six assists, followed by Pat Connaughton with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson contributed with 16 and 12 points, respectively, the former also producing eight boards.
The same four that scored in double figures the last time out are also averaging double figures for Notre Dame during conference play, led by Grant and his 15.6 ppg. Grant is hitting field goals at a 50.0 percent clip, but is just 28.6 percent accurate out on the perimeter, although he tries to make up for that deficit by handing out better than six assists per contest. Connaughton comes close to averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest, but still the Irish are being beaten on the glass by an average of more than three rebounds per game.
The Wolfpack not only shot just 5-of-15 from the floor on the road against Miami, the team was also outscored 18-3 at the free-throw line, more than enough to send NC State to the loss column yet once more. Adbul-Malik Abu scored a team-best 19 points and Trevor Lacey tacked on 10 points, the latter shooting only 4-of-13 from the floor and 2-of-7 beyond the arc.
Ralston Turner, who shot 3-of-12 from the field and finished with nine points in the loss to the Hurricanes, saw his run of five straight games with double- digit scoring come to an end. Turner paces the program in scoring with 15.9 ppg in league play, shooting an impressive 42.4 percent behind the 3-point line. Lacey contributes another 15.7 ppg as he too shoots the ball well on the outside at 42.5 percent.