North Carolina (21-5, 9-3 ACC) vs. N.C. State (14-12, 3-10 ACC)
Raleigh, N.C. – PNC Arena
Wednesday, 8 p.m.
ACC Network (Wes Durham, Dan Bonner)
“We are going to keep fighting, and we got to kind of eliminate some of the other things that are kind of around us, and got to try to draw in a little closer as a team, stay together. We are the same team that went into Cameron and won. We are the same team that beat Virginia Tech.” – NCSU head coach Mark Gottfried
“I think we’ll get their best shot. We played well when they were here… it was sort of like a snowball going downhill – it just got bigger and bigger on them. It helped us when Dennis Smith got his third foul in the first seven minutes. They’re so gifted, I mean they beat Duke at Duke, they killed Virginia Tech at their place… they’ve had some big-time games and yet they’ve struggled. We’ll get the best shot from them on Wednesday. They’ll be fired up.” – UNC head coach Roy Williams
"We knew if we got up early on them, they were going to quit." - Wake Forest's Keyshawn Woods, as told to the Associated Press following Saturday's 88-58 win over N.C. State
Heels Fall Late to Duke: UNC’s defense has been faltering as of late, and its 86-78 loss to Duke on Thursday was the most recent example. The Blue Devils shot a crisp 52.6 percent from the floor, including 13 made three pointers. Any chance for UNC to pull away from Duke was cancelled out by the hot shooting of Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, who scored 25 and 20 points, respectively. The lack of defensive efficiency was crucial, but Roy Williams’s side crumbled late with an inability to convert offensively, including crucial misses at the free throw line. UNC missed four free throws in the final seven minutes, and shot 8-of-15 from the line in the second half. UNC currently sits atop the ACC standings at 9-3 with Louisville and Florida State a half game back.
N.C State Spotlight: Not much is going right for head coach Mark Gottfried in his sixth season in Raleigh. The Wolfpack fell to Wake Forest on Saturday, 88-58, to bring its losing streak to five, which is tied for the longest slide in Gottfried’s tenure. While State has proven to be a proficient team on the boards, it has been outrebounded in four of their last five games. The Wolfpack has been unable to use the glass to impact games – the team's 480 total rebounds given up is the second-worst in the ACC. Freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. leads NCSU in points (18.7), assists (6.8), and steals (2.0) per game.
Wolfpack’s Defensive Woes: Conference play has exposed the Wolfpack defense, as NCSU has given up at least 80 points in 10 conference games this season - giving up 86.7 points per game in ACC play overall, good for last place. Opponents have also found good fortune from the three-point line against Gottfried’s squad as ACC teams are shooting 43.3 percent from deep against them. The Wolfpack’s offense averages 75.2 points per game in conference play, but hasn’t been able to keep up with the massive amount of points that the defense is letting up. N.C. State’s last five opponents are averaging 1.3 points per possession.
Matchup to Watch: The highly-anticipated matchup in the Jan. 8 meeting was UNC’s Joel Berry versus freshman standout Dennis Smith. Due to the nature of the blowout, the matchup never materialized as Smith looked frazzled from the get-go and got in foul trouble early. With more games under his belt, and a home crowd behind him this time, expect the projected lottery pick in this year’s draft to stand tall against his veteran counterpart. Smith is prone to trying to do too much when his team falls behind, which only magnifies the team’s issues. If the Wolfpack can keep the game tight early, fans may finally get to see the true matchup between Smith and Berry.
Matchup to Watch, Part Two: Junior wing Theo Pinson has proven to be an effective sixth man off the bench since his return from injury, and his performance in the second unit will be crucial Wednesday night in Raleigh. NCSU sophomore guard Torin Dorn plays a similar role for the Wolfpack. Dorn is the first man off the bench for Gottfried, and while he’s had his own ups and downs of late, he’s shown that he’s an effective scorer. Dorn recorded a double-double on Saturday (14 points, 11 rebounds) and seemed to be the only bright spot for the Pack. With Dorn at 6-foot-5 and a player who loves to hit the boards, expect Pinson to draw that assignment when both are on the court together. Pinson played a big part in UNC’s 107-56 win over State in January, amassing five assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Williams's Continued Dominance: Roy Williams is 31-3 all-time against N.C. State, including a 26-3 mark since returning to Chapel Hill. UNC is also 80-21 in games coming off a loss in the Williams era, including 11-0 in regular season games following a loss to Duke.
Last Meeting: UNC defeated N.C. State, 107-56, at the Dean E. Smith Center on Jan. 8. The Tar Heels started the game on a 26-4 run and led the Wolfpack 56-23 at halftime. Justin Jackson led all scorers with 21 points, and Berry added 19 points. The win was UNC’s largest margin of victory in ACC play in school history.
Series Record: The Tar Heels lead the series, 154-77. UNC has won 20 of the last 22 games.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 14.9 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg (questionable: hamstring)
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 6.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg
5 Tony Bradley (6-11, 240, Fr.) – 7.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg
0 Nate Britt (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 5.0 ppg, 2.7 apg
1 Theo Pinson (6-6, 211, Jr.) – 6.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Projected NCSU Starters:
0 Abdul-Malik Abu (6-8, 240, Jr.) – 12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg
3 Terry Henderson (6-5, 190, Sr.) – 14.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg
4 Dennis Smith Jr. (6-3, 195, Fr.) – 18.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg
14 Omer Yurtseven (7-0, 245, Fr.) – 6.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg
24 Maverick Rowan (6-7, 220, So.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg
2 Torin Dorn (6-5, 208, So.) – 10.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
23 Ted Kapita (6-8, 219, Fr.) – 4.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg