GAME NOTES: Instate rivals collide along Tobacco Road, as the North Carolina Tar Heels welcome the NC State Wolfpack to the Smith Center for Atlantic Coast Conference action on Saturday.
Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack were considered one of the favorites to win the ACC crown this season, but while the talented squad showed flashes of brilliant play this season, consistency has been the main issue. NC State comes into this contest with an impressive 19-7 overall mark, but conference play has proved to be more challenging, with the Wolfpack sitting at 8-5. NC State does come into this game with some momentum however, with three straight wins, including an 84-66 rout of Florida State earlier in the week.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels weren't regarded as a real conference contender at the season's start and they haven't dispelled that notion, as UNC comes in with a solid 18-8 mark, including matching NC State in-conference at 8-5. The Tar Heels have won two straight games, knocking off Virginia (93-81) and Georgia Tech (70-58) in the last week.
North Carolina leads the all-time series, 147-76, but it is NC State seeking the regular-season sweep after earning a 91-83 shootout win in Raleigh back on Jan. 26. Still, the Tar Heels have won 13 of the last 14 meetings.
The Wolfpack are one of the nation's top offensive teams, coming into the weekend, averaging an impressive 78.7 points per game and doing so on nearly 50 percent shooting from the floor (.497). The scoring pool is deep with five players currently averaging double figures, led by C.J. Leslie's 15.7 ppg. Leslie, who is shooting .546 from the floor, is also a big contributor on the boards, where he pulls down 7.7 rpg. Richard Howell gives the team a formidable low post threat, averaging a double-double with 13.0 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Point guard Lorenzo Brown is both a potent scorer (12.7 ppg) and deft distributor (6.8 apg). Other players of note include sixth-man extraordinaire T.J. Warren (12.2 ppg) and sharpshooter Scott Wood (11.9 ppg).
Warren, a 6-foot-8 freshman, erupted for a career-high 31 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Florida State, his first career double-double. Leslie recorded a double-double as well with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Wood added 13 points to the cause, while Brown finished with nine points and nine assists. NC State shot .458 from the floor in the game and dominated the play on the glass, outrebounding the Seminoles, 45-21.
The Tar Heels won't shy away from running with the Wolfpack, as they are equally suited to win a shootout. UNC is shooting a modest .442 from the floor, but is netting an impressive 78.2 ppg. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo has not quite lived up to the lofty praise lavished on him at the season's start, but he does lead North Carolina in both scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg). Reggie Bullock (13.8 ppg) and P.J. Hairston (13.3 ppg) give the team a couple of perimeter players that can get hot from long range. The pair have combined for 118 of the team's 188 3-pointers to date. Dexter Strickland (7.7 ppg) and Marcus Paige (7.4 ppg) don't add much in terms of scoring, but they have both shouldered the burden of running the offense, with each going over the century mark in assists.
McAdoo broke out of a three-game slump, as he recorded a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the team's big road win at Georgia Tech. Leslie McDonald poured in 15 points, thanks in large part to his 4-of-6 showing from behind the arc. Hairston checked in with 10 points, while Bullock finished with nine points and seven boards. North Carolina didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the game (.379), but the team did force 19 turnovers, while committing just nine.
NC State is a dangerous team, but has really struggled on the road this year (2-5). The first meeting proved to be highly entertaining and little should change this time around, except for perhaps the outcome.
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