North Carolina (15-2, 4-0 ACC) vs. N.C. State (10-7, 0-4 ACC)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
ESPN (Dave O’Brien, Dick Vitale, Allison Williams)
“Its never one thing to fix, its a lot of things. We just have to make sure we’re still improving. We are team that has a lot of inexperience and sometimes during the games they will lose their way and their confidence. And then we have to find a way to get it back. We have got to learn how to play at a high level all the time. It just not there yet.” – N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried
“I look at our team, and we aren’t a bad team. We know that, I know that, and most people that watch us play know that. But we are a team that needs to be better throughout the entire game. We have stretches where we are really good and stretches where we are not so good. That’s just part of a young group growing up, but you have to grow up at some point.” – Gottfried
Season to Date: N.C. State enters Saturday’s contest with a 10-7 (0-4 ACC) record. The winless conference mark represents the Wolfpack’s worst start in league play since dropping its first eight games during the 1996-97 season. N.C. State’s lone quality win thus far is an 83-72 overtime win over LSU on Nov. 24.
Junior Emergence: Cat Barber has been sensational for the Wolfpack this season, leading the ACC in scoring with 22.5 points per game. Barber has emerged as N.C. State’s primary, and at times only, offensive option. He’s played more minutes than any other player in the ACC, averaging 38.6 per game. He can also act as a facilitator, averaging 4.9 assists per contest, good for fourth in the conference. Barber led the Wolfpack with 15 points in last year’s contest at the Dean Dome.
Seven-Man Wolfpack: Gottfried has relied heavily on a limited rotation this year after the surprise draft declaration of guard Trevor Lacey and an ankle injury to junior transfer guard Terry Henderson. Three Wolfpack starters average more than 32 minutes per game, while four other players at least 23 minutes per game. A major key for North Carolina will be to attack N.C. State and create foul trouble for an already-thin lineup. Forcing Gottfried to go beyond two players into his bench could create problems for the Wolfpack.
Shooting Woes: N.C. State ranks 301st nationally in effective field goal percentage, according to kenpom.com. To break that down further, the Wolfpack ranks 269th in 3-point field goal percentage, 283rd in 2-point field goal percentage and even struggle from the line, ranking 242nd in free throw percentage.
Slow and Steady: North Carolina and N.C. State utilize different basketball philosophies, and the Wolfpack’s ability to control the tempo will determine whether or not it can spring the upset. UNC is ranked 25th in the country in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com, with 74 possessions per 40 minutes. By contrast, N.C. State averages 67.3 possessions, good for 277th. In last year’s match-up at Chapel Hill, the Wolfpack successfully controlled the pace of the game, chewing up clock on the majority of their possessions and holding the Tar Heels to their lowest point total in Smith Center history.
All Up Anya: Junior forward BeeJay Anya has established himself as a defensive force in the paint. Anya leads the ACC in blocks with 2.8 per game. In last year’s match-up at UNC, Anya rejected six shots off the bench against a very similar North Carolina frontcourt that will play on Saturday. His presence on defense could disrupt UNC’s bigs down low and force the guards to make plays.
Maverick Cruises: Freshman guard Maverick Rowan is finding his footing at the college level after an inconsistent December. Rowan exploded for 22 points in the loss to Florida State on Wednesday, his highest point total in conference play. While he hasn’t shown it enough to be considered a major threat this season, Rowan came to Raleigh as a highly touted 3-point shooter, and is currently shooting 32.8 percent from long range. It’s no secret that UNC’s perimeter defense has been porous this year, so Rowan could pose a problem from outside.
Abu Gives a Boost: Sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu turned in his best game of the season against Florida State with a 21-point, 13-rebound, six-assist effort. Perhaps the scariest part of that line is the seven offensive rebounds Abu snatched. He is likely N.C. State’s most most efficient interior scorer, and he will be a threat to any defensive pairing Roy Williams rolls out on Saturday.
Last Meeting: The Wolfpack defeated the Tar Heels, 58-46, at the Smith Center on Feb. 24, 2015. The 46 points set a new scoring record for fewest points in a game by UNC at the Smith Center. The Tar Heels trailed 29-18 at halftime and fell behind by 16 points early in the second half before mounting a 16-2 run to pull within two points. Justin Jackson led all scorers with 16 points and Kennedy Meeks added a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 151-77. The Tar Heels have won 17 of the last 19 meetings. Roy Williams is 28-3 all-time against N.C. State, including a 23-3 mark as UNC’s head coach.
12 Anthony “Cat” Barber (6-2, 190, Jr.) – 22.5 ppg, 4.9 apg
24 Maverick Rowan (6-7, 215, Fr.) - 13.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg
0 Abdul-Malik Abu (6-8, 240, So.) - 11.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg
14 Caleb Martin (6-7, 215, So.) - 11.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg
21 BeeJay Anya (6-9, 285, Jr.) - 4.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg
1 Lennard Freeman (6-9, 250, Jr.) – 4.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg
15 Cody Martin (6-7, 210, So.) – 5.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg