North Carolina Trending Upward With Three Wins in a Row

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 2nd, 2014

North Carolina continued its home dominance over N.C. State with an 84-70 win Saturday in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have now won 11 consecutive meetings with the Wolfpack in the Smith Center, coinciding with Roy Williams’ tenure as UNC’s head coach. The last win for the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill was back in 2003, which was Matt Doherty’s last season at the helm. More importantly, the Tar Heels’ victory was their third straight ACC win, raising them to 4-4 in league play. For N.C. State, this loss ended a three-game winning streak, albeit with all the wins in Raleigh, and drops the Wolfpack to 4-5 in the ACC standings.

Roy Williams' Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill. (Photo: Robert Willett / newsobserver.com)

Roy Williams’ Still Perfect Against N.C. State in Chapel Hill.
(Photo: Robert Willett / newsobserver.com)

The story of the first half was the dominant performance of the North Carolina defense versus the N.C. State offense. The Tar Heels held the Wolfpack to 25 percent shooting on its way to a 40-23 halftime lead. N.C. State struggled to get open shots and failed to convert from anywhere on the court. At the rim, North Carolina blocked six first half shots, and the Wolfpack made only 1-of-7 from three. Even the foul line was a source of misery for N.C. State in the opening stanza, shooting a dismal 2-of-7.

In the second half, N.C. State played much better offensively, more than doubling its first half point total by outscoring North Carolina 47-44 after the break. Mark Gottfried switched to a smaller lineup, using point guards Anthony Barber and Tyler Lewis together, and went with a spread offense. The move enabled the Wolfpack to attack the Tar Heels off the dribble and get much easier shots, making an impressive 65.4 percent of their second half field goals. JuCo transfer Desmond Lee was particularly effective, repeatedly beating a bigger Tar Heel defender off the bounce on the way to 18 second half points. But while the small lineup ignited the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels took advantage of their size advantage on the other end. In the second half, North Carolina grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and converted those into 13 points. In a game in which overall shooting and turnovers were virtually even, the difference in the outcome can be traced to the Tar Heels’ 52-36 overall rebounding advantage. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Saturday’s game.

Takeaways for North Carolina (14-7 , 4-4 ACC). It seems as though Williams is tightening his rotation to seven primary players. Only two Tar Heel reserves saw more than six minutes of action, with Nate Britt and Brice Johnson getting 19 minutes each. North Carolina got another aggressive performance from James Michael McAdoo, who scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Leslie McDonald had a very efficient game, scoring a season high 20 points on 13 field goal attempts, and he’s looking more comfortable now as a starter. When coming off the bench earlier this season, McDonald often appeared anxious to fill the role of “instant offense” and probably hunted for his shot a bit too much. But now after starting for the fifth game in a row, the senior has relaxed and is letting the game come to him. Despite still struggling on his threes, going 2-of-7, McDonald found other ways to score by making 5-of-6 two-point attempts and 4-of-5 from the foul line. Perhaps the Tar Heels’ second half defensive letdown can be traced to their schedule. Saturday was the third game in seven days that included a tough trip to Atlanta in which North Carolina faced rather unusual travel circumstances. Up next for the Heels is a visit from Maryland (Tuesday – 8:00 PM ET) which will be their fourth game in a 10-day stretch.

Takeaways for N.C. State (14-8 , 4-5 ACC). Even though the Wolfpack lost again to its rival, they can point to a strong second half as a sign of team development. In its four previous ACC losses, N.C. State has been outscored by a whopping total margin of 161-102 after half time. And unlike the blowout losses to Virginia and Duke, the Wolfpack kept competing in this one — even cutting the Tar Heels’ lead to 10 points with 1:30 to play. Lee’s second half production is another positive takeaway, as is the effectiveness of the dual point guard lineup that N.C. State can now turn to when necessary. It would be helpful if Gottfried could get more production from his post players, though. Against North Carolina, his four primary big men combined for only five points in 58 minutes of play, while shooting a weak 1-of-11 from the floor. Eight of those misses belonged to freshman Kyle Washington, the most skilled player of the group. Wolfpack star T.J. Warren was held in check for most of the game, scoring 13 of his 21 points in the last 8:38 of play after the outcome had been decided. Going forward, the Wolfpack must find a way to get him going sooner against ACC teams on the road. N.C. State has a week off before travelling to Miami (Saturday – 2:00 PM ET), and that contest will be the second of five road trips in a six-game stretch.

Quotable.

  • “I told them [UNC players] this week, I think we’re really close to becoming a good basketball team. But we’ve got to take some more steps and got to maintain that intensity level for a longer period of time.”- Roy Williams, discussing his team’s recent play.
  • “Just a couple nights ago, we played against a really good Florida State team, moving without the ball, their pressure doesn’t bother us. Here we are a couple days later, now we just seem to stand around.” – Mark Gottfried, discussing N.C. State’s first half offensive struggles.
  • “I’m ecstatic about [it].” – Williams, on the Tar Heels second half free throw performance (15-17).
  • “We really competed. We showed a lot of spirit.” – Gottfried, on the Wolfpack’s improved play in the second half .
Brad Jenkins (75 Posts)


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