No. 16 Memphis faces pressure from NC State

No. 16 Memphis is down another player as it prepares to meet North Carolina State Thursday afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Wolfpack have played with a reduced roster through the opening weeks of the season.

Despite that, NC State boasts a five-game winning streak since a season-opening loss in overtime to Georgia Tech.

"I told our guys to try and build on that, and we have built on it every game that we have played," Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said.

This is NC State's first game away from home. It's also the first matchup against a nationally ranked team.

"Getting a chance to play Memphis, I am excited to see the product we put on the floor against them," NC State guard C.J. Bryce said. "We are excited to be in New York, but it is another game for us and another opportunity for us to get better."

NC State (5-1) has used mostly an eight-player rotation. The Wolfpack is expected to have backup post player Danny Dixon available after he missed the past four games with a foot injury.

The Wolfpack have overwhelmed their past five opponents. There was a test when point guard Markell Johnson fell into foul trouble Saturday against Little Rock.

"It was good for us. We are going to have to play without different pieces throughout the season," Keatts said. "You can see from our roster that we are only playing eight guys, so we can get into foul trouble with any one of those guys."

The Wolfpack began the season with Johnson missing a game with an ankle injury and forward DJ Funderburk sitting out with a team-imposed suspension, though both have been in action recently.

Memphis (5-1) knows what it's like to be without key players.

Even minus heralded freshman center James Wiseman, the Tigers have frontcourt strength.

Freshman forward Precious Achiuwa notched double-doubles in back-to-back games last week and was named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week.

Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9 player, has taken up the slack while 7-1 Wiseman awaits his return to action in January based on an NCAA ruling.

Memphis played most of a one-point home victory against Mississippi on Saturday without guard Lester Quinones, who suffered a first-half injury. He'll miss up to three weeks with two broken bones in his right hand and won't be playing in this game in his home state.

"It hurts us because we're down (two players)," Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. "It makes the other guys have to step up. I'm pretty sure they will. ... We'll just have to play our hearts out in New York."

Hardaway said he's looking at the situation minus Wiseman and now Quinones as a bonus in terms of getting other players more experience early in the season.

Contending with NC State's backcourt could be the key to this game.

"They're deep," Hardaway said of the Wolfpack's scoring sources. "They're guard-oriented. We have our work cut out for us."

NC State tends to apply full-court pressure, something that might be a change-up for the Tigers, who've encountered heavy doses of zone defenses.

"We haven't faced a lot of pressure," Hardaway said.

This will be the Tigers' second neutral-court game after a loss to Oregon in Portland, Ore., in their third game of the season.

--Field Level Media
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