Heels escape Raleigh, win 90–82
RALEIGH, N.C. — Trailing 82-78 with under a minute left to play, junior N.C. State guard Markell Johnson received the rock for a wide open corner three with a sellout PNC Arena crowd anxiously waiting to explode. An airball followed.
The No. 12 Tar Heels, led by senior forward Luke Maye, then quickly finished off the No. 15 Wolfpack by connecting at the foul line and improved to 12–3 overall and 2–0 in ACC road action. With the loss, N.C. State fell to 13–2 overall and 1–1 in ACC play. Since 2004, this was the first time that both historic programs have met while both were nationally ranked in the Top 15.
“It was a heck of a night,” head coach Roy Williams said. “Glad to get out of here.” (Quote derived from Joe Giglio: Sportswriter for The News and Observer)
In a game of frantic runs, North Carolina used an 11–3 spurt late in the second half, thanks to a 4:47 drought from State, to help keep victory out of reach for the Wolfpack. In fact, N.C. State opened tonight’s contest bitter cold in terms of shooting by starting off 0–8 from the field.
“We missed a lot of shots that we normally make,” N.C. State senior guard Torin Dorn said. “To win games, you have to make plays. We have to step and make shots...” (Quote derived from Joe Giglio: Sportswriter for The News and Observer)
Carolina promptly used the early gift to jump out to quick 12–0 lead. The Tar Heels would lead by as many as 14, 19-5, before the Wolfpack began to hunt. Directly after a struggling to put a lost shoe back on, sophomore guard Braxton Beverly, stepped up and knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to weather the storm and give the crowd something to cheer about.
N.C. State said that two can play that game, scoring in transition off of turnovers, and went on a run 14–2 run of their own in full-court press mode to pull within two, 31–29, with 6:42 left in the first half. For the game, the Pack forced an unusual 23 Carolina turnovers, average 13.9 per game thus season.
However, the Tar Heels secured a 47–42 lead entering the half. Amazingly, 35 of the Wolfpack’s 42 points thus far came by the way of the bench. Hence, Johnson, sophomore forward DJ Funderburk, who finished with a crucial 15 points, and senior forward Wyatt Walker all found themselves in early foul trouble. Second-year head coach Kevin Keatts was then forced to enact his smaller lineup as both his bigs exited left toward the bench.
Luke Maye’s, the Wolfpack’s recent kryptonite, halftime stat line read, 15 total points on 5–8 shooting.
Coming out of the half, the Wolfpack was able to successfully tie it twice at 47 and 53 apiece but never grasped the lead. An ensuing four-point play by sophomore forward Cameron Johnson quieted the raucous crowd and the Tar Heels would never look back. Johnson, who finished with a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards, suffered a leg cramping injury midway through the second half and did not return action.
“We rebounded the heck out of it,” Willams said. “I felt like (that) if we won the rebounding, we would win the game.” (Quote derived from Joe Giglio: Sportswriter for The News and Observer)
Sure enough, the deciding factor within the rivalry game was physicality to achieve rebounds. Coming into tonight, North Carolina averaged 13.9 second-chance points per game, that’s second most in the major conferences. For the game, the Heels advantageously outrebounded the Pack 51–33. Dorn led the way for N.C. State with 10 total boards.
“We couldn’t get anything going at the beginning of the game, with missed shots, and then we battled back,” Keatts said. (Quote derived from Joe Giglio: Sportswriter for The News and Observer)
State would, in fact, howl back once more to pull within one, 70–69, on a C.J. Brice, a junior guard, free throw with 10:03 remaining. However, let the Pack’s dry spell and the insurmountable 11–3 Tar Heel run and lead commence. Brice finished the contest by contributing 13 points.
Beverley finished with a team-high and career-high 21 points, 5–7 from behind the arc to keep hopes alive for the Pack time-to-time.
However, Maye capped of the Tar Heel victory with Carolina’s third double-double of the night, 21 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Kenny Williams also produced a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Freshman guard Cody White accounted for 19 points and 5 rebounds.
When leading at the half this season, North Carolina is now 11–0. Carolina has now also won six of their last seven meetings with N.C. State at PNC Arena. With the victory, head coach Roy Willams extended his overall coaching record against the Pack to 29–4, best among the ACC opponents.
For Kevin Keatts and company, they will look to bounce back from tonight’s tough home loss while hosting (10–4 overall, 0–1 ACC) conference foe Pittsburgh this Saturday at noon.
As for North Carolina, the Heels will look to keep the recent 4–0 momentum going strong in the hosting of the Louisville Cardinals (10–4 overall, 1–0 ACC) at noon this upcoming Saturday.
*All stats derived from either ESPN’s Super Tuesday Live Broadcast and or the ESPN App’s Live Gamecast coverage