Struggling Spartans seek upset of surging Wolfpack

In its final non-conference game of the season the NC State Wolfpack will host intrastate foe UNC Greensboro at PNC Arena on Monday evening.

It has been a miserable season for UNC Greensboro. The Spartans fell 84-70 to Wake Forest last Saturday in what was the third straight loss and seventh in the last eight games for the team. The Spartans are now just 2-8 this season and have yet to earn a win in four tries on the road. UNC Greensboro will get back to Southern Conference action in its next contest against Davidson.

The Wolfpack have been rolling along during this past month. The Wolfpack have won all six of its games in December including an 84-68 victory over Western Michigan this past Saturday. The Wolfpack are now 10-2 overall. The Wolfpack have won all seven games at home this year, but will need to travel to face Boston College in its ACC opener next time out.

These instate foes have met seven previous times with each of those games ending in NC State victories. The most recent win also came on New Year's Eve during the 2009-10 season, when the Wolfpack topped the Spartans 89-67 in Greensboro.

Although the Spartans nailed eight 3-pointers against Wake Forest, UNC Greensboro shot just 42.4 percent overall which was far off the 52.9 percent pace the Demon Deacons were at. Wake Forest also outscored the Spartans 23-12 from the free-throw line. Trevis Simpson poured in 25 points in the loss.

The struggles for the Spartans really can't be blamed on the team's offensive production. UNC Greensboro is the top scoring team in the SoCon this season as the Spartans are scoring 77.3 points per game. That has come despite just a 42.3 field goal percentage. The Spartans also do a good job controlling the boards (39.2 rpg) but on defense they have been less than impressive. UNC Greensboro has let up 80.5 points per game on 47.0 percent shooting. Simpson (20.3 ppg) has had no trouble finding ways to score this season. He has netted 20 or more points in four games this season and currently the 15th-best scorer in the nation. Derrell Armstrong (15.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) has also shown a propensity to score at a high level, while Kayle Locke (11.0 ppg) adds offensive punch off the bench.

Foul trouble in the first half kept NC State from running away from Western Michigan, despite the Wolfpack shooting 60.0 percent in the first 20 minutes. However in the second frame NC State outscored the Broncos 16-7 from the charity stripe to stretch out its lead. NC State also outscored the Broncos 21-9 in points off turnovers. C.J. Leslie led five players in double figures with 19 points.

The offensive firepower of NC State has been nearly unmatched this season. The Wolfpack are scoring a hefty 80.8 points per game and shooting better than any other team in the nation (53.5 FG percentage). The Wolfpack's defensive numbers are less eye-popping as they give up 69.6 points per game on an even 40.0 percent shooting. All five starters are averaging double figures. Leslie (15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg) is the top offensive option and is a force around the rim. T.J. Warren (13.6 ppg and Lorenzo Brown (12.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg) anchor the team in the backcourt. Brown has been especially vital thanks to his distribution. Scott Wood (11.2 ppg) is a lethal shooter from beyond the arc and Richard Howell (13.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg) is a double-double threat just about every time he hits the floor.