Talking points: NC State dominates early, snaps streak
Posted January 26, 2013
Updated January 27, 2013
1. NC State had the talent advantage, an incredible home-court atmosphere thanks to ESPN College Gameday bringing their circus tent to PNC Arena and something to prove following an ugly loss to Wake Forest. It wasn't a "must win" for the Wolfpack from any logical point of view, but they needed to get over what seemed like a permanent roadblock provided by North Carolina.
And that's exactly what they did Saturday night against the Tar Heels, even if the ending provided tense moments. NC State snapped a 13-game losing streak to North Carolina and bounced Roy Williams for only the second time since he took over the Tar Heels.
2. When NC State clicks, they're an exciting group to watch on the court. They flexed on North Carolina for nearly 30 minutes, beating the Tar Heels at their own transition game.
Richard Howell and Calvin Leslie each finished with double-doubles. Leslie was particularly strong attacking the basket, neutralizing James Michael McAdoo early in the contest and later creating a viral sensation at the expense of Jackson Simmons. Scott Wood was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, including a crucial 4-point play with 4:18 to go. Lorenzo Brown was a matchup nightmare, leading all scorers with 20 points and dished out 11 assists. TJ Warren came off the bench and provided 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
3. Let's get to the question everyone seems to pondering: "Why can't NC State play like that all the time?"
There's a little bit of "Showtime Wolfpack" with this squad. NC State has no problems when the stage is large and the lights are bright, but that only leads to a handful of great moments. If the Wolfpack want to have a great season, they'll need to be just as engaged for the lower rungs of the ACC as they are for the big rivals. There is no reason why this team couldn't destroy Wake Forest or had to needlessly sweat out a victory against Clemson in the week leading up to their rivalry showdown with North Carolina.
The Wolfpack need to sweep the leg and show no mercy. Otherwise, they'll get caught napping and suddenly find themselves torched by a guy named Devin in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Williams described the game to the media as a "butt whipping" and thought any notion of a moral victory "was for babies." For the most part, he's absolutely correct. However, it's hard not to talk about the Tar Heels cutting a 28-point lead down to 5-points in the final minute.
North Carolina scored 57 points in the second half and 52 in the last 13:22, forcing the otherwise rabid PNC Arena crowd to hold their collective breathe before they could enjoy the victory.
Williams is clearly tired of the inconsistent play in 20 minute chunks. The Heels have typically played better in the opening half and the focus wanes after the break. In previous games against teams with inefficient offenses, North Carolina was able to grind through their own mistakes. NC State had an offense that made them pay for those mistakes early on. The Wolfpack outscored North Carolina 20-0 in fast break points by halftime, which had to be mind-boggling for Williams.
5. At issue for North Carolina is Marcus Paige, who finished the game 2-of-11 from the field and +1 on the assist/turnover ratio. Frustrated with his production, Williams played Luke Davis for 6 minutes.
While NC State stepped up their defensive efforts, which produced a rare shot clock violation, plenty of UNC's issues were of their own doing. Reggie Bullock misfired early and Dexter Strickland took his share of questionable shots. PJ Hairston finally provided a spark after Williams dusted him off the bench, much to the confusion of North Carolina fans who wondered why Strickland continued to get minutes.
6. NC State fans showed restraint and did not rush the court as the buzzer sounded. The large gust of wind you felt emanating from Edwards Mill Road was actually a massive amount of people exhaling in relief.