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N.C. State Preview

By Win Braswell
On November 8, 2012

The Miami University men's basketball team opens its 2012 regular season Friday on the road in Raleigh, NC to take on the No. 6 North Carolina State University Wolfpack. The RedHawks are under the leadership of new head coach John Cooper and are looking to get the season started on a good note.

Miami will start the season with all its players active, after suffering crucial injury problems for most of 2011. In the last week of practice before taking on the Wolfpack, the 'Hawks focused on defense, as they will attempt to stop a team that averaged 73 points a game last season. Several N.C. State players, including junior guard Lorenzo Brown, junior forward C.J. Leslie and senior forward Scott Wood will be the biggest challenges for Miami.

Brown was a third team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) player in 2011. Brown ranked second on his team in scoring last season with 12.7 points a game. He also presents problems for defenders with his ability to find open teammates of floor-stretching shots. Brown averaged over sic assists a game last season as well.

Leslie, very Julian Mavunga-like in his style of play, is going to test the strength of Miami's big men, as the 6'9", 2nd Team All-ACC forward led his team in scoring at 14.7 points a game and is a rebounding machine, snagging nine rebounds a game over the final 10 games of the season.

"These (Brown and Leslie) are two potential first round draft picks," Cooper said. "They're going to be a couple of the better players we see all season, but I keep telling the team that we have to do this as a group. We've got to step up, be alert to what's going on and at least take away some of that athleticism. We have our work cut out for us, but we play the game to play it as a team."

Miami edged out Maryville University in its only 2012 exhibition game, using high intensity and a stifling pressure defense that wore over the course of the game. Heading up against N.C. State, the 'Hawks know they have to come enthusiastic about playing a high-powered opponent.

"We have to be strong with our trap," junior guard Quinten Rollins said. "One of the keys from the Maryville game that we have to bring to this one is getting in the right spots on the defensive end of the floor."

Rollins, along with junior guard Allen Roberts and junior forward Will Felder, was integral in establishing the tone of the team in the preseason matchup. Felder led the team in scoring and provided invaluable energy, especially defensively to help break down the Saints.

"We know, playing at home, [Leslie] is going to come out with a lot of energy to try get his team and the crowd going," Felder said. "It's definitely going to take a team effort, and the person matching up with him to match his intensity. Constant pressure will make it hard for anybody."

Miami is looking to shoot the ball better as well. Cooper stressed the importance of improving upon a 44.8 percent field goal percentage in the first game. Cooper also vowed his team would fix its 10 missed free throw attempts.

"We've got to knock down shots," Cooper said. "If we don't, it's going to be a long night for us."

N.C. State finished its 2011 campaign losing in the Sweet 16 to eventual national runner-up Kansas University. Wood was a big component in that success, shooting 90 percent from the free throw line, while torching defenses with his quick release shot that helped him reach 12.4 points a game average.

"We have to try not to let him (Wood) get off clean looks," Cooper said. "He presents a size challenge for us as well, but we just have to make him knock down tough shots."

Rollins knows the team has to have realistic expectations, playing in a hostile environment.

"Wood is going to get his points," Rollins said. "We know he is going to make shots, but we have to at least slow him down, while focusing on communicating on the court."

Friday's game tips off at 7 p.m.

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