2nd-half surge spurs UNC to 76-65 win over NC State

jgiglio@newsobserver.comFebruary 23, 2013 

— Roy Williams got angry and North Carolina got even.

With 22 points and 13 rebounds from Reggie Bullock and a timely substitution gambit from Williams, the Tar Heels beat N.C. State 76-65 on Saturday to pay the Wolfpack back for a late January loss.

A decisive 18-2 run, inspired by Williams’ decision to make a wholesale five-for-five substitution, moved the Tar Heels (19-8, 9-5 ACC) into third place in the ACC, a game ahead of the Wolfpack (19-8, 8-6).

“I was ticked off,” Williams said about the reason behind the wholesale change. “I thought we were getting casual with everything we did.”

Williams, who improved to 20-2 and 10-0 at home against N.C. State as North Carolina’s coach, said he didn’t think it was a deciding factor in the game.

The run his team subsequently made, though, was a big part of the Wolfpack’s problems.

“That little stretch, I thought was the difference in the game,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.

N.C. State beat the Tar Heels 91-83 in Raleigh on Jan. 26 with a potent transition game, a lights-out performance from point guard Lorenzo Brown and a strong game from forward C.J. Leslie.

The Wolfpack got none of the above on Saturday, scoring only four points in transition compared to 39 in the first game, while Brown was outplayed by Tar Heels freshman Marcus Paige (14 points, eight assists). Leslie finished with as many turnovers as points (six).

Instead of a rare season sweep for N.C. State, it was North Carolina which left feeling like it might be on the right track for March.

“It’s time for us to make ourselves known that we’re a good team,” said Bullock, who finished with five 3-pointers and three assists.

Between the 0-2 ACC start and a 26-point loss at Miami on Feb. 9, there have been tenuous moments this conference season for the Tar Heels, who were expected to be in rebuilding mode.

The Tar Heels have won three straight since going to a smaller, quicker starting lineup with P.J. Hairston at forward.

“I think we’re starting to click a little bit,” said Paige, who didn’t have a turnover in 31 minutes. “I think we’re just overall growing as a team.”

Williams said that recent growth is a result of a sense of urgency. Overall, North Carolina had that, Williams said, but at the 13:25 mark of the second half, he brought in J.P. Tokoto, Luke Davis, Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons and Paige for a spark.

N.C. State’s Scott Wood, who finished with a team-best 19 points, made a pair of 3-pointers against the Tar Heels’ unusual lineup and N.C. State took a 49-45 lead, but there was value in the time on the bench for the North Carolina regulars.

“When coach does that, he’s trying to help us see the things that we weren’t doing out there,” Bullock said. “Once we came out, we saw that the five went in and were doing some things we weren’t doing.”

At the 11:37 mark, Williams kept Paige on the floor and brought back Bullock, Hairston, James Michael McAdoo (14 points) and Dexter Strickland.

The teams traded baskets and N.C. State still led 55-52 with 8 minutes left before the Tar Heels found their groove. Bullock had eight points in the 18-2 run and Paige had six.

By the time N.C. State caught its breath, the Tar Heels led 70-57. The final 3 minutes and 37 seconds were a formality. The fans in the North Carolina student section bid the N.C. State players farewell with a chant of “This is our state,” a knock on the Wolfpack’s marketing slogan and a reminder of the established order in the neighborhood.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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