ACC Basketball

NC State holds on to beat Tar Heels

GERRY BROOME — AP Photo

WHAT JUST HAPPENED:
Trying to prove that you don’t did scoring from your size inside, the NC State Wolfpack opened up a 36-20 lead on North Carolina early in the second half solely on jumpers, before a furious Tar Heels rally saw them go on a 16-2 run, cutting the lead to 38-36. However, Roy Williams’ club never was able to get ahead, taking too many bad shots, while the Wolfpack made just enough. Ending the game on a 8-0 run, earning a worthy 58-46 victory.

FIVE DEEP THOUGHTS

  • Normally you can’t just win with jump shots, but apparently you can every once in a while. The Wolfpack don’t typically get a lot of scoring from their big guys. Kyle Washington, Abdul-Malik Abu, Beejay Anya and Lennard Freeman only combine for 21.3 points per game and they get most of those points off of rebounds or being in good position for penetrating guards. Yet, Tuesday night, they made zero effort to score in the post. They rarely even posted up, instead focusing on the glass and setting screens for their shooters.
  • The Tar Heels came into the game owning the paint, as both Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson were nearly unstoppable the past two weeks. Yet, defensively NC State’s bigs dominated the paint Tuesday night. Led by Beejay Anya, the Wolfpack didn’t just try to hold their position and put their hands up. Instead, they attacked the shot, trying to break a blocks record (Anya ended up with six). Meeks and Johnson hit just 6-16 on the night and most of those six didn’t come in the half court offense. Carolina shot just 34% from the floor, scoring a season low 46 points.
  • There is really no silver-lining for North Carolina Tuesday tonight, although that rally, even though it came up short, was pretty impressive as they scored 16 points in the same amount of time it takes me to go to the bathroom. Yet, they really struggled in their half court offense in a way I haven’t seen since they lost to Kentucky. With Marcus Paige reverting back to average Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels guards and wings were so ineffective, it was painful to watch. Justin Jackson hit his first two and played a big part of that second half run (six points, one assist), but he missed his last four. J.P. Tokoto must have spent the weekend watching his highlights because he spent the night going one on three (1-6 from the floor).
  • Clearly, Mark Gottfried had a strategy. He made his team watch game film of both Virginia and Clemson and simply said, “do it slower.” The Wolfpack milked the clock, refusing the get into a run-and-gun type of game with North Carolina. The key was, they were hitting those last second shots early (twice at the shot clock buzzer) and that set the tone early. If those shots don’t go down, building their confidence, I think we have different results. Anyhow, for the game, NC State only hit 20 shots on 57 attempts (35%), but they controlled the clock and only let UNC have 55 shots.
  • Defensive rebounding was an issue early in the season for North Carolina, allowing nine of their first 12 opponents to pull down double digit rebounds. Once in ACC play though, they did a much better job on the glass. However, they gave up 13 to NC State. Now the Wolfpack only got eight second chance points off those boards, but remember, their goal was to slow it down and an offensive rebound lets a team re-set the offense and take more time off the clock. Worse yet, North Carolina has allowed double digit offensive rebounds in three of their last eight (granted, the other two were overtime games), but they are 0-3 in those games.

RANDOM NOT-SO-DEEP THOUGHTS

  • Marcus Paige’s season-long disappearing act continues. He scored just seven points, hitting just 1-5 from deep and he had a costly turnover late in the game when he went up in the air for a three, but changed his mind and tried a pass to Tokoto, who wasn’t looking. 2013-14’s Marcus Paige would not have passed up on that shot.
  • NC State’s three guards; Anthony Barber, Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey combined for 43 of the team’s 58 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, dishing out six assists.
  •  He may have missed 10 of his 16 shots, but Anthony Barber is getting more and more confident with his driving ability. He could be special next year when he’s a junior.

FINAL WORD: 
NC State improves to 17-11 on the year, 8-7 in conference, winning three in a row for the first time since Thanksgiving. More importantly, they’ve just taken down two more ranked teams, Louisville and UNC (although how much longer will the Tar Heels be ranked?), plus they still have that win over Duke. Best yet, the final three games should all be wins.

North Carolina comes off their most complete game of the year in a win over Georgia Tech, then proceeds to have their worst game of the season in the following contest. With the way their guards are performing, are they any good? They’ve lost five of seven now and the only two teams they’ve beaten are Georgia Tech and Boston College, two teams who have a combined four ACC games. They haven’t beaten a top-40 team since beating Louisville with a last second jumper at home back on January 14.

They fall to 19-9 on the year, 9-6 in the ACC and now they sit one game behind Louisville for that all-important 4-seed in the ACC.

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