But instead the Wolfpack displayed all of the problems that have sunk it to the lower half of the ACC standings – sluggish starts, poor defense and mental lapses. The Pack turned what should have been a bitter rivalry game into a cake-walk for the Heels, as the home team ran away with 84-64 victory.
"I felt embarrassed, I'm pretty sure our team felt embarrassed," senior Tracy Smith said. "We have to keep fighting, everybody needs to be on the same page."
The loss drops the Pack to 12-9, 2-5 in conference play. The Pack will finish the first half of its conference season later this week when it hosts Virginia Tech at the RBC Center.
"It's tough because we have a lot of people on our back right now," Lorenzo Brown said. "Telling us what we are doing wrong and what we got to do to win. We just have to stay together."
Ryan Harrow, the Pack's electric freshman point guard, did not play because of flu-like symptoms. Harrow had taken over the starting role at the point for the Pack but was replaced in the lineup by Javi Gonzalez on Saturday.
"When I saw [Harrow] this morning I knew he wasn't going to be able to go," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "He's got a bad bug, not even a cold its a bug, that's going around on our campus. We have about 25 student-athletes right now that are going through the same thing."
The Heels dominated the boards, grabbing more than half of their own misses and out-rebounded the Pack by a 53-39 margin for the game. The Heels also out-shot the Pack, hitting 47 percent from the field compared to 37 percent for the visitors.
Brown led the way for the Pack offensively, playing a majority of minutes at the point with Harrow out of action and scoring a career-high 20 points while dishing out seven assists. CJ Leslie and Tracy Smith also scored in double figures with 14 and 12 respectively while Gonzalez led the team with nine rebounds to go along with his eight points.
"[Brown] showed in a tough environment against a very good team, very good players – that he could handle the situation," Lowe said.
The problem started for the Pack from the opening tip as the visitors were unable to keep Carolina off the offensive glass. At one point in the half the Heels owned a 15-2 rebounding margin and they finished the first 20 minutes with a 13-2 edge in second-chance points.
The Heels quickly stretched their lead into double digits despite shooting just 38 percent from the floor and 18 percent from behind the arc in the first half. The Pack managed to keep the lead within shouting distance despite its 23 percent shooting, but could never find any offensive consistency. The Heels used their superior shooting and rebounding to take a 34-21 lead into the locker room.
"We dug a hole for ourselves in the first half – not rebounding the basketball and giving them second opportunities," Lowe said.
Lorenzo Brown came alive for the Pack in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring seven straight points to help the Pack cut the lead down to as few as 11 points. But while the Pack improved offensively, they couldn't stop the Heel offense from scoring easy baskets on the other end.
The Heels pushed the lead out past 20 points in the waning minutes of the game as the Pack had no answers for Harrison Barnes or John Henson on the defensive end. Barnes finished the game with a career best point total as the Pack dropped its fifth game in its last six contests.
"You should be [embarrassed]. Am I? Yeah, I mean, you don't come out and play like that," Lowe said. "You have to play better than that. You have to come out and battle and beat people."