Observations From The Game: UNC

Here are some initial thoughts and observations on NC State's 67-55 loss to North Carolina.

NC State dropped to 10-8 overall and 0-5 in the ACC with a 67-55 loss to No. 6 North Carolina at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack held the Tar Heels to 36 percent shooting from the floor and the game was tied at halftime. It was a 16-4 run by UNC over a span of almost six minutes in the second half that created the separation in the contest.

Abdul-Malik Abu

The sophomore finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds. He was also tied for the team lead with three assists. Abu had six assists in NC State’s loss to Florida State and is becoming the well-rounded player that people envisioned prior to the season. When he fouled out with 43 seconds remaining, the Wolfpack’s lone inside threat on the afternoon was sidelined and any prayer of hope for State went with him.

Limiting UNC Offensively
On Saturday the Tar Heels did much better at home against NC State than last season when the Pack limited them to a Smith Center-worst 46 points but Carolina did not shoot well Saturday also. UNC finished 25-66 (36 percent) from the floor and fared even worse from behind the arc (5-20 for 25 percent). 

Like last season, North Carolina was ripe for the taking. Unlike the game in 2015, NC State did not utilize the poor start of the Heels to create a working margin, so when the inevitable rally came it provided UNC a chance to seize control of the game as opposed to simply getting back into it.

Cody Martin
After replacing his brother in the starting lineup, Cody finished with a solid all-around effort. His 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists along with his solid defensive work on Marcus Paige (three points on 1-9 shooting) showed his versatility. Cody also played some minutes on the point with Cat Barber in the game, which can add to his effectiveness as the season progresses.

Cat Barber
The ACC scoring leader was limited to nine points, none in the second half. He had five turnovers and one assists -- a problem that mirrored his team as a whole. Barber seemed tentative in attacking the goal, a staple of his game. Overall, if he had a game akin to his season averages, NC State would have been in a much better position to upset the Tar Heels on the road for a second straight season. 

Assist-to-Turnover Ratio
The Wolfpack had only seven turnovers (on 22 made baskets) while committing 18 turnovers. NC State had nine of its turnovers in the first half, when North Carolina was struggling. The inability to take care of the basketball cost the Pack dearly. 

NC State shot 40 percent and hauled in 17 offensive rebounds on 33 missed shots. Assuming the Wolfpack maintained those averages, the nine turnovers represent 13 or 14 shot attempts that were never taken, with either five or six of those shots being converted based on State’s shooting percentage. That is 10-12 points left on the table in the first half if all the made shots had been two-pointers -- with this coming in a game that was tied at halftime. It would have changed the complexion of the contest.

Kennedy Meeks
NC State was essentially level with North Carolina is several areas. Shooting percentage, rebounding, second-chance points and bench points were all basically a wash. Meeks finished with 23 points on 10-for-16 shooting and that helped the Tar Heels in one of the areas where they excelled over the Wolfpack, bench scoring. 

Meeks produced many of his baskets in situations where he was guarded by players who were in foul trouble. Abu and BeeJay Anya would eventually foul out. After the 16-4 run in the second half that handed North Carolina the lead, things settled down back to how they were but Meeks was a constant. If NC State is to do better in the rematch against UNC on Feb. 24 in Raleigh, foul issues in the frontcourt will need to be avoided.

NC State has seven assists on 22 made baskets while North Carolina had assists on 17-of-25 shots that went through the hoop. Cody Martin had three assists but when he and Barber play together there should be more of an emphasis to drive and find the open frontcourt player when the defense collapses

“You have to give [Meeks] credit. He’s a really good player and they went to him. I do think Malik and BeeJay got to a point where they were trying not to foul.” -- NC State head coach Mark Gottfried 

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