- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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UNC Foe to Know: At 4-1 in the ACC, the Wolfpack is off to its best league start since 2003-04, and sharpshooter Scott Wood is a big reason for it. North Carolina faces its in-state rival Thursday night at the Smith Center.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State junior Scott Wood made only 70.6 percent of his free throws as a freshman.
So, to what does he credit his perfect season thus far (he's made all 48 attempts, part of an ACC record 58 in a row dating to his sophomore season)?
“To be honest, I hated taping my ankles, and I think that was an adjustment,’’ said the 6-foot-6 guard, whose Wolfpack plays No. 8 North Carolina on Thursday night. “I’m being serious -- if you’ve ever taped your ankles, you’ve got no flexibility in your ankles. But now that I’ve done it for so long, I’m kind of used to it. Now it feels better.
“And lowtops. I went to lowtops my sophomore year. I told Coach [Sidney] Lowe, and I told Coach [Mark] Gottfried, ‘I promise you my shooting percentages will increase if you let me wear lowtops.’ And I think it has.’”
Wood -- who leads NC State’s balanced attack with 13.3 points per game -- is also leading the ACC by making 45.3 percent of his 3-point shots. The Marion, Ind., product will be a good defensive test for UNC sophomore Reggie Bullock, who will make his first start, in place of injured shooting guard Dexter Strickland, on Thursday at the Smith Center.
But there’s no defense once Wood makes it to the free throw line, where he broke former Duke All-America J.J. Redick’s old ACC mark for consecutive swishes (54) at Miami last weekend, by going 7-for-7. He also leads the NCAA in free throw percentage this season.
Opposing fans might try to distract him, but he’s pretty good at zoning all of that out.
“The only thing I really hear [when at the line] is when the players are saying something,’’ Wood said. “Miami mentioned it a couple times, ‘You can miss one any day now.’”
But he didn’t.
“I don’t think anyone can rattle Scott,’’ teammate Lorenzo Brown said. “He hardly misses from the 3-point line; I don’t think he’s going to miss a free throw.”
Indeed, Wood -- who said he was more worried about missing the one after he set the league mark than the one that secured it, “because I thought it would be a shame for me to break the record and then miss a free throw” -- is now closing on the NCAA record for consecutive free throws. That’s held by another Indiana native, Darnell Archey, who made 85 straight for Butler from 2001-03.
Wood said he once made 214 foul shots in a row, in a gym with his uncle when he was 12. So 86 does seem doable, with a little luck and concentration.
And of course, the right footwear.
“Lowtops make me feel a little more free,’’ he insisted.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.