GREENSBORO, N.C. - Just the words 'Florida State' brought a slight grin to the face of NC State forward Scott Wood.
"I'm pretty sure (FSU) is not going to leave me open," said Wood in NC State's locker room following the 11th-seeded Wolfpack's 59-57 upset of No. 6 Clemson on Thursday night in the first round of the ACC Tournament, which pushed the Wolfpack into a quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 Florida State tonight at 9 p.m (ESPN2).
Keeping a tight cover on Wood will undoubtedly be a big part of Florida State's game plan. The lanky 6-foot-7 freshman exploded for 31 points - the most FSU has given up to a single player in any game this season - and did most of his damage from long range, hitting 7 of 11 3-point attempts while carrying the Wolfpack to an 88-81 win over Florida State in Tallahassee on Jan. 12.
"It seemed like (Wood) hit about a dozen 3-pointers," NC State senior forward Dennis Horner said. "It seemed like he couldn't miss. He was on fire."
That was the lone meeting between FSU and NC State so far and it was perhaps the strangest game the Seminoles, who have made a living off winning close, low-scoring contests, have been involved in all season. The 88 points was the most Leonard Hamilton's club have surrendered to anyone and the 81 was the most it has scored in an ACC game. The two teams also combined for 53 fouls which led to 69 foul shots.
Wood's performance was particularly uncanny considering he entered the game averaging 7.5 ppg, which likely explains why he got so many open looks.
FSU, which will be the last team to begin play in the ACC Tournament, has had plenty of time to prepare for the rematch despite not knowing whether they would play NC State or Clemson until nearly midnight last night. The Seminoles arrived in town on Wednesday for a one-hour practice at the Greensboro Coliseum on Wednesday night, had a two-hour practice on Thursday afternoon where time was devoted to the Wolfpack and the Tigers and have another short session to work specifically on the 'Pack this afternoon.
"I am not real sure that the time of the day being prolonged is any different than it is normally is for a regular season game other than the fact that I am sure most people, a majority of a lot of people will have gone home and maybe you won't get the true feel of the ACC Tournament at 9 o'clock at night," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "That might not be what some people want to do, staying in the building all day long. Once, they throw the ball up, I am not real sure it is going to make that big of a difference to any of the guys playing because we are all going to be playing for our ACC Tournament lives."
Nobody may know that better than FSU's lone senior Ryan Reid, who has made a point to talk to his younger teammates about how the level of intensity rises in the league tourney.
"There is a lot of emotions and guys are going to go really hard," Reid said. "We all want a title, especially me since it's my last year. We go to the title game last year and that has given us a taste of it. Now we really want to win it and make history. I told the freshmen you can't be freshmen anymore. You've got to knock down open shots and play like you've been here before."
Reid, who played in the first round of the ACC Tournament his first two years, believes starting with a day off for the second straight year will be a big benefit.
"I'm really happy we are a three seed," Reid said. "Two years ago we were playing on Thursday. Now we have less games to play and extra time to prepare. Having gone to the title game last year we know what it takes to get there. We've been working hard to get a good seed so we could play less games."
NC State is simply happy to still be playing. In mid-February, virtually everyone had given up on the Wolfpack, who were riding a five-game losing streak and sat in last place in ACC with a 2-10 league record. But, Sidney Lowe's club has rebounded by winning four of its next five games and emerged as one of the hottest teams in the league.
"We are doing the same things we did before," Horner said. "Sometimes guys just had off games in the past. We seem to all be clicking together now. Everybody is stepping up and that's why we are winning games."
Eight players logged 19 minutes or more against Clemson. Big man Tracy Smith, the Wolfpack's leading scorer at 17.1 ppg, poured in 19 points and reserve forward Richard Howell played one of his best games of the year, adding nine points and pulling down 11 boards.
Many of the Wolfpack players, including Wood, said trying to beat the Seminoles will be tougher the second time around.
"I know they are going to come out hard and even more scrappy than before," Wood said. "They will want revenge."
What the Seminoles want most is to find a way into the semifinals and if that means getting some revenge on Wood and company along the way it will certainly feel a little sweeter.