Previewing N.C. State

The Tar Heels are literally limping to the finish line in their second lap through the conference slate, and must beat N.C. State on Saturday to stay out of last place. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for 4 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (13-11, 2-7) vs. N.C. State (14-11 2-8)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
4:00 p.m. ESPN (Mike Patrick and Len Elmore)

Quotables

"It's a rivalry game and it doesn't matter what the records are. I think Coach Williams said it, the two teams are going through some similar things with youth, trying to develop and progress. It's N.C. State and Carolina and it's an important game for both teams. For us it's a game that can maybe start something." -- N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe

"They both give us something different. Richard with his rebounding and physical play and Farnold gives us that extra guy in the backcourt who can push the ball up the court or go to the basket. We definitely need to have everybody healthy." – Lowe on injured players Richard Howell and Farnold Degand

PREGAME NOTES

Since the Last Time We Met… N.C. State enters Saturday's contest with a 14-11 (2-8 ACC) record. Since losing to North Carolina, 77-63, on Jan. 26, the Wolfpack have lost three of four contests, including three-straight ACC games against Virginia (59-47), Georgia Tech (73-71) and Virginia Tech (72-52).

A Factor in the Paint: Tracy Smith continues to be the Wolfpack's most consistent performer, delivering team-high scoring totals in 16 games and team-high rebounding totals in 18. For the season, Smith leads the Pack in both scoring (17.4) and rebounding (8.3). In ACC play, the 6-foot-7, 245-pounder ranks ninth in scoring (15.9), fifth in rebounding (8.1), and is tied for second in field goal percentage (.496). Smith looks to take advantage of a depleted North Carolina frontcourt – Ed Davis (wrist), Travis Wear (ankle) and Tyler Zeller (foot) will all be on the sidelines on Saturday.

Challenging for a New Lowe: N.C. State has struggled mightily during Lowe's tenure to field a legitimate defense, and the 2009-10 season has been no different. The Wolfpack allowed ACC opponents to shoot 46.2 percent in ‘06-'07, 47.0 percent in '07-'08 and 46.9 percent in '08-'09. After finishing 12th in field goal percentage defense the past two years, N.C. State currently holds the No. 11 spot with a 46.7 mark.

Second-Half Collapses: If you're looking to explain N.C. State's current five-game losing streak in ACC play, look no further than the team's performance in the final 20 minutes. The Wolfpack has connected on just 30.2 percent (49-162) of its second half shots during that span, including four halves under 30 percent. N.C. State's opponents, on the other hand, have combined to shoot 55.9 percent (71-127) in the second half of this losing streak.

Keeping the Turnover Count Low: While N.C. State fans have criticized their guard play all season long, the Wolfpack have actually done a solid job in limiting mistakes. State's 12.8 turnovers per game average in league play stands third-best behind Virginia (10.9) and Duke (12.1) and its plus-0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is tied with Virginia Tech for fifth-best in the conference.

Random Fact of the Day, Part I: Since N.C. State has been unable to join UNC in the top-half of the ACC standings during Lowe's tenure in Raleigh, the Tar Heels have been kind enough this season to keep their Tobacco Road rivals company in the conference cellar. The programs' combined 4-15 league record heading into Saturday's contest represents the worst mark in the history of the rivalry.

Random Fact of the Day, Part II: The Wolpack's 0-for-11 effort from the 3-point line against Virginia Tech on Wednesday marked the first time since 1989 - a span covering 654 games - that an N.C. State team had not made at least one 3-pointer.

Last Meeting: North Carolina defeated N.C. State, 77-63, at the RBC Center in Raleigh on Jan. 26, 2010. The Tar Heels used a 28-6 second-half run to pull away from the Wolfpack. Deon Thompson led UNC with 20 points, while Larry Drew tied his career-high with 18 points and posted seven assists against one turnover. Smith (20) and Javy Gonzalez (19) combined for 39 of N.C. State's 63 points.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with N.C. State, 141-75. UNC has won seven straight, 13 of the last 14, and 30 of the last 38 against the Wolfpack.

Projected Starters:
10 Javier Gonzalez (6-0, 175, Jr.) – 9.9 ppg, 4.0 apg
15 Scott Wood (6-7, 170, Fr.) – 8.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
22 Josh Davis (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 3.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg 31 Dennis Horner (6-9, 226, Sr.) – 12.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg
23 Tracy Smith (6-8, 247, Jr.) – 17.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg

Top Reserves:
12 Farnold Degand (6-4, 170, Sr.) – 5.8 ppg, 2.7 apg
24 Julius Mays (6-3, 187, So.) – 5.6 ppg, 1.8 apg
1 Richard Howell (6-8, 266, Fr.) – 5.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg
21 C.J. Williams (6-6, 218, So.) – 3.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg

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