North Carolina travels to Raleigh to face in-state rival NC State
In the wake of an impressive win over Duke on Thursday night, North Carolina must quickly regroup and prepare for a game against NC State in Raleigh on Saturday.
The Tar Heels have to avoid a hangover game coming off of the big win against the Blue Devils, because NC State is a good enough team to make them pay for it. As we already saw in Chapel Hill, when the Tar Heels play poorly, the Wolfpack can take advantage and steal a win.
The Tar Heels, though, are clearly the more skilled team. Yes, they’ve had inexcusable lapses of concentration that turned into missed shots and missed assignments that ultimately resulted in losses. But when they’re focused, this team has a shot to beat any opponent in the country.
One NC State player to watch…
Despite scoring 20 or more points just twice in his first 21 games of the season, Allerik Freeman torched the Tar Heels for 29 in the teams’ first meet of the season. Not only that, but he did it on 8-of-11 shooting and 7-of-7 from three-point range.
Freeman’s game was so good, in fact, that he became the first player to ever hit more than five three-pointers against North Carolina, and hit every shot.
Since his red-hot performance against the Tar Heels two weeks ago, though, Freeman is just 1-of-12 from three-point range and now shooting less than 32 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Despite whether it’s Freeman or some one else, North Carolina simply cannot allow a shooting performance like that to happen this time around.
Working through screens and closing out on three-point shooters will come at a premium. Especially considering that as a team, the Tar Heels gave up 15 three-point field goals on 30 attempts in their first meeting. And many of those made shots were from wide-open shooters.
One UNC player to watch…
Kenny Williams was a big reason why the Tar Heels knocked off the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill on Thursday. After hitting just 4-of-18 three-pointers in his previous five games, he knocked down 6-of-12 against Duke and scored 20 points.
Williams is really active on the offensive end of the floor, and does well coming off screens to shoot threes. If his teammates can find him in positions to shoot, he can get his shot off with just a little bit of space.
And if Williams is consistently hitting shots, it’ll force the Wolfpack to concentrate on him even more, likely opening up other players, be it inside the post or out on the perimeter.
The young UNC interior needs room to work, and doesn’t do as well when playing in a crowded lane or through a lot of contact. Williams and company hitting some outside shots will help the raw UNC big men to do their job inside.
Key to the game…
Intensity is a must for this North Carolina team.
When the Tar Heels get complacent on the offensive end of the floor, settling for jump shots and shooting contested threes, they struggle to score.
The same can be said on the defensive side of the ball when the Tar Heels give up countless offensive rebounds and allow teams to shred them from the perimeter.
And when both of those things are happening, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Against Duke, the Tar Heels were engaged the entire game. And regardless of a scoring drought near the end of the second half, they stayed focused from start to finish, and avoided giant lapses of energy and judgement.
This isn’t the North Carolina team of the past two seasons, but it’s still one that has considerable skill. And when they maintain that high level of intensity, the results are usually good.
North Carolina lost an overtime heart-breaker to NC State in Chapel Hill in the first of two regular season matchups. The Tar Heels forced overtime, but committed five costly turnovers in the extra frame, ultimately relinquishing the lead and game to the Wolfpack.
Luke Maye led the Tar heels with 31 points on 12-of-23 shooting and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Theo Pinson had his best game as a Tar Heel, scoring 22 points and pulling down 15 rebounds in 36 minutes of play.
NC State had five players score in double-figures, led by Allerik Freeman who poured in 29 points off the bench, including a perfect 7-of-7 from the three-point line.
What you need to know…
What? UNC (18-7) (7-5) versus NC State (16-8) (6-5)
When? Saturday, February 10th at 2:00 p.m. ET
Where? PNC Arena, Raleigh, North Carolina
TV? ACC Network, Watch ESPN
Radio? Tar Heels Sports Network
All-time series? UNC leads 155-78
Line? UNC -3.5
Prediction? UNC 91, NC State 79