RALEIGH, N.C. – No. 10 North Carolina seemingly scored at will against N.C. State’s lackluster defense on Wednesday, handing the Wolfpack its sixth-straight loss with a 97-73 victory.
N.C. State had allowed its previous five opponents to average 1.3 points per possession, so the Tar Heels understood there would be plenty of scoring opportunities available. UNC capitalized early, averaging a season-high 1.34 points per possession in building a 51-37 halftime lead.
The Tar Heels maintained that scoring efficiency after halftime, increasing their lead to 29 points and averaging a season-high 1.33 points per possession for the game. UNC shot 56.0 percent from the field, its highest percentage of ACC play and third-best mark of the season.
The Tar Heels dominated down low, outscoring the Wolfpack 60-22 in points in the paint and 27-13 in second-chance points.
Kennedy Meeks bounced back from his tough outing at Duke last Thursday to score 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Joel Berry led UNC with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting (4-of-8 3FG). Theo Pinson tied his season high with 12 points in his first start of the year.
UNC’s 51 points before halftime marked the fifth time in ACC play it has scored 50 points or more in a half and the third time against N.C. State.
Hicks In, Williams Out
Hicks, who missed the first game of his career at Duke last Thursday, returned to the starting lineup against the Wolfpack and quickly found foul trouble, picking up two whistles in his first seven defensive possessions. His third foul came on his ninth defensive possession.
The senior forward was limited to seven points and one rebound in seven minutes.
Kenny Williams suffered a right knee injury while warming up for practice on Tuesday and did not dress out for Wednesday’s game. The sophomore guard was on crutches and did not put any weight on his right leg while leaving the court during pregame warmups. UNC head coach Roy Williams announced after the game that he's going to have surgery next week, likely ending his season.
With Hicks in foul trouble, sophomore forward Luke Maye logged 23 minutes and took advantage by scoring a career-high 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed seven rebounds, including four on the offensive end.
UNC’s 51-point win over N.C. State in January was the second-largest margin in the series, trailing only the 62-10 Tar Heel victory in 1920-21. With Wednesday’s 24-point victory, the 2016-17 Tar Heels can boast the largest point differential in a season series at 75 points.
The Tar Heels have swept the season series against the Wolfpack 11 times in 14 years under Williams, who improved to 32-3 overall and 27-3 at UNC against his rival from Raleigh. UNC has won 21 of the last 23 games against N.C. State and is 12-2 at PNC Arena during the Williams era.
Perimeter Shooting Slump
UNC shot 38.0 percent from 3-point range in its first 22 games this season, including a 38.7 mark in its first eight ACC games. Over their last five games, the Tar Heels are shooting 33 percent from deep.
UNC shot 30.4 percent from 3-point range (7-23) on Wednesday.
UNC returns to the Smith Center for a pivotal ACC matchup with No. 14 Virginia on Saturday night. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers are 18-7 (8-5 ACC) and two games behind the Tar Heels in the conference standings.