The Wolfpack exploded for 62 second-half points and clobbered UNC, 98-76, before a zoo-like sellout crowd of 19,722 at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh.
Here is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's 18th loss in 25 games and 11th Atlantic Coast Conference defeat in 14 contests.
First half – The Heels played perhaps their best half of basketball against a quality opponent all year in the first 20 minutes. They were aggressive on both ends of the floor, attacking on offense and challenging passes on defense. They executed their game plan and scored on State in nearly every fashion. Their active hands on defense helped create some easy baskets and frustrated the favored Wolfpack.
Attitude – Carolina's early attitude after the difficult loss to Ohio is a testament to the players and coaching staff. Considering the season, it would have been easy to go through the motions, but they didn't.
Matt Doherty – Credit Doherty for keeping the faith - and ears - of his players. They are still trying to execute his game plans and are approaching contests as if they can win, for which he deserves credit.
Kris Lang/Jason Capel – Lang missed a lot of shots but battled the entire night. His play helped keep the Heels in the game. He scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds despite playing much of the second half with four fouls. Jason Capel (17 points, seven rebounds and three assists) also fought hard, hit some key shots and had some nice moments.
Melvin Scott – Scott didn't have a particularly strong statistical game (five points, no assists) but he played with increased confidence. He appears more self-assured than earlier this year and is seeing the floor better. Looking for positives? This is clearly one.
Adam Boone – Boone had a nice game (17 points, five assists, three turnovers) and has shown significant improvement in recent weeks. He dribbles facing the defense more and isn't as hesitant taking the ball to the hole. His personal nine-point run was impressive and helped the Heels forge a 12-point lead late in the first half.
Brian Morrison – Morrison (10 points, two assists and three turnovers) has improved, folks. He is far more patient than in the first half of the season and if given more consistent playing time would be much more consistent with his production. He doesn't get enough opportunities to have a big game as he did earlier in the year.
2nd half Defense – Where was it? The flat-footed Heels lacked the aggressiveness and perhaps thought process to compete in the second period. State got way too many open looks, both inside and out, and appeared as if they were going through a fast-paced walk-through at times. For the record, the Wolfpack scored an astonishing 62 points in the second half. It's difficult to imagine a worse – or better from the NCSU perspective – performance over 20 minutes.
Fouls – The Heels were called for 29 fouls and as a result the Wolfpack attempted 11 free throws in the first half and an amazing 26 (made 22) in the second half. For the game, State was 30-37 (81.1 percent). By the way, State fans were still chanting stuff about "Carolina refs."
Bench production – Aside from Morrison, the bench combined for two points, three rebounds and an assist in 35 minutes of action. Jackie Manuel's offensive struggles continued as he didn't score and had just one rebound in 16 minutes. He also fouled out.
Rebounding – The Heels were outrebounded 19-13 in the second half, a significant disparity considering the teams were even in the first 20 minutes.
Late approach – When behind late in games the Heels have too often run their usual offense and gone inside instead of attempting to comeback by getting enough quality looks from beyond the arc. They did this on Sunday and it slowed whatever comeback the team was trying to make.
Closing in on 20 – With 18 losses, the Heels must win their final two games if they are to avoid losing 20 games unless they win both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.
The Tar Heels return home for Senior Night at the Dean Dome on Wednesday night as Clemson comes to town. The Tigers have never won in Chapel Hill, making this one streak the struggling Heels can maintain with a victory. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.