Lighter schedule? Wolfpack in no mood to hear about it

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N.C. State enters what may be considered a softer portion of its conference schedule on paper. Just do not try telling that to the Wolfpack.

After a seemingly endless slew of battles against ranked opposition, N.C. State is hosting Wake Forest on Thursday at PNC Arena. The respite from schools in the Top 25 is brief as No. 25 Miami, fresh off a galling home loss to No. 5 Duke this week, will make the trip to Raleigh for a Sunday showdown.

The Pack has done well at home this season, sans a non-conference loss to UNC Greensboro, and won both of their ACC games in Raleigh last week. Each came against ranked teams.

In its loss to No. 2 Virginia over the weekend, N.C State struggled to muster any type of offensive flow. That is par for the course when it comes to visiting teams in Charlottesville.

“We are fine,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “Obviously, we lost a tough road game to a very good defensive team on their floor. I didn’t know this going into the game, but looking back at some stats, I think Virginia is 44-4 in the ACC at home, which is pretty tough.

“I thought we had some great looks early in that game that certainly did not go down for us. When you don’t make shots, against Virginia they make you pay because they can control tempo and they are very efficient on the offensive end.”

With the next two games at home, N.C. State has a chance to maintain serve in conference play over the next five days, and with wins in both contests, would move over .500 in league play. It would be an impressive turnaround after beginning with lopsided losses in its first two ACC outings.

While being at home has its advantages, Keatts is yet not convinced there is a correlation and would like to see more evidence that playing games in front of friendly crowds in league play is a certain remedy for success. He hopes the Wolfpack gives him more proof this week.

“I think certainly in the ACC, there is some great home venues and unbelievable crowds,” Keatts said “Players today, they really feel comfortable playing at home.

“Some of that, I think it is really too early to determine. I would say once we are halfway through the conference schedule, you can look at it a little more. Right now, I think everybody has unbalanced schedules. For us, we have started off, obviously, playing three road games and two home games and then certainly some have not had it that way.”

While many think of Duke and North Carolina as the sole rivals of N.C. State, the matchups between the Wolfpack and Wake Forest have been intense over the years. In a trend similar to what has happened this season in the ACC, both schools won several straight over the other at home prior to 2017 when the Demon Deacons broke through and won in Raleigh.

Wake Forest also thrashed the Wolfpack in Winston-Salem last season, the fifth straight home win over N.C. State, and after the game it was suggested that Pack would “quit” when the going got tough.

It should lead to an interesting matchup Thursday.

“It is pretty intense,” Torin Dorn Jr. said of the games between N.C. State and Wake Forest. “We went down there last year, and their fans don’t like us and our fans don’t like them. I don’t think our fans like anybody, but it is fun. In-state rivalries are always fun.

“Every week is a big week in the ACC. You have always got to take care of home court because it is tough to win on the road as we have seen. If you take care of homecourt you will be in a good position.”