But from that point on, the senior Noel gave the Wolfpack fits and the Tar Heels dominated. With the score tied at 21, Noel sparked an 8-0 North Carolina run with six straight points. After converting one of two free throws, Noel knocked down a three-pointer and threw down a highlight-reel dunk on the fast break to extend the lead to six. A Reyshawn Terry three-pointer with 1:31 left in the half stretched the Heels lead to 14, before an Ilian Evtimov layup had the Pack down 12 at the half, 46-34.
Noel hit 7-of-9 shots in the first half, scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds. The Heels had a +13 advantage on the glass in the first half, and their ability to dominate the boards would prove to be the deciding factor in the game.
NC State mounted a comeback in the second half, but couldn't get the deficit below nine points. After Simmons converted a three-point play to cut North Carolina's lead to nine at 60-51 with just over 13 minutes to play, the Heels bounced back with four straight points from Terry and Tyler Hansbrough.
The Wolfpack, considered by most to be the league's top 3-point shooting team, knocked down 6-of-15 in the first half, but missed all ten attempts in the final 20 minutes. Also hurting NC State's chances to come back was North Carolina's continued dominance on the boards, as the Tar Heels finished with a +17 overall rebounding advantage, including +14 on the offensive glass.
The Tar Heels shot 60.6% in the final half, and limited the Wolfpack to just 37.9% shooting after halftime.
"North Carolina was absolutely outstanding tonight," Sendek said. "They certainly whipped us in every way.
"I just thought they really just whipped us. They were just better than us in every facet."
Andrew Brackman and Engin Atsur each totaled 16 points to lead the Wolfpack, and Simmons added 14. Seniors Tony Bethel, Cameron Bennerman, and Ilian Evtimov connected on just 6-of-18 from the field, as NC State shot 44.2% for the game.
"We got some looks, we just didn't make them," said Evtimov. "It's tough to win when your shots don't go in... especially when you let the other team score 95 points." Cameron Bennerman had his streak of 20 straight games in double figures snapped, as he finished with nine. The streak matched Julius Hodge's mark for the longest for a Wolfpack player under Herb Sendek.
Noel's 25 points and 11 rebounds paced the Tar Heels, and Reyshawn Terry totaled 20. Hansbrough added 17 points and Wes Miller chipped in 15 on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
No. 15 NC State dropped to 21-6 on the season, 10-4 in the ACC. Next up for the Wolfpack is a huge contest against Boston College. NC State defeated the Eagles 78-60 in the their first meeting, and both teams are battling North Carolina for second place in the conference.
"Things change quickly in college basketball," said Sendek. "I can remember being in Providence and getting blown out in the Big East tournament. Two weeks later we're playing the same Georgetown team, and we're fortunate enough to win and go to a Final Four.
"You got to move forward quickly, and that's what we need to do."