"Every time we made a run they made big plays," Dennis Horner said. "I guess that's what a winning team does."
The Heels made the final run of the game to end the Wolfpack's upset hopes, finishing the contest with a 13-4 streak to win 93-76 on Saturday afternoon at the RBC Center. The Pack has now lost five straight contests to the Heels.
The game ended with tempers flaring as Ben McCauley kept Mike Copeland from dunking with under two seconds left on a break-away. The hard foul drew a technical from the officials and Copeland responded by briefly going after the senior center. The two players were separated before anything happened, but McCauley defended his actions in the post-game locker room.
"I thought that was kind of disrespectful at that point," McCauley said. "The game was over. I wish it didn't happen the way it did but I didn't want him to get an easy dunk. To me I just thought it was a little unnecessary."
"He can do that on his own floor or whatever but don't come into our home building with the game over pretty much trying to dunk like that."
Courtney Fells keyed many of the Pack's comeback efforts in the second half, scoring 20 of his team-high 22 points in the final 20 minutes. The senior guard hit four 3-pointers in the half including back-to-back 3s that cut a 13-point advantage to a single-digit game.
Three other players scored in double digits for the Pack as Brandon Costner added 13, Horner scored 12 off the bench and Degand finished with 10. McCauley and Tracey Smith struggled, going a combined 3-for-15 in 53 minutes on the court.
"Their bigs out-played us – that's it," Lowe said. "They were tough inside."
The Pack came out hot, particularly Costner, who scored seven of the Pack's first nine points as they jumped ahead of Carolina early. But the Heels mounted a quick run 13-0 run to put the Pack in a 10-point hole that State couldn't get out of during the half. They cut it as close as four on two occasions but another Carolina rally closed the half to make it a 43-31 game at the break.
Misses in the paint haunted the Pack in the first half as balls rattled in and out on seemingly every possession, with the home team getting outscored 26-4 inside in the first half. The team actually shot better outside the arc than inside, hitting on 42 percent from behind the line but just 28 percent inside. Meanwhile the Heels hit on 56 percent of its shots. Both team had six turnovers and the Heels had just one more rebound in the half.
"We just missed too many lay-ups," Costner said. "Obviously that's the difference in the game. We make those and the game is a different story."
The Heels continued to jump on the Pack at the outset of the second half, stretching the lead to as many as 18 points before the home team made its comeback. State used Fells' barrage of 3-pointers over the undersized Bobby Frasor to key the comeback, going on a 16-6 run around the mid-way point of the half to cut the lead to eight.
The Heels responded with another run, building the lead back up before State pushed back and cut it as low as seven. But the Heels made the final push, as the Pack had whittled the score to 72-80 with four minutes left only to allow the Heels to finish the game on a 13-4 run to end the Pack's upset hopes.
"We did a great job of fighting back but down the stretch we had a little conditioning problem and they kept coming at us," Fells said. "We have to get better at finishing down the stretch."