UNC vs. NC State: Three keys for the Tar Heels, Wolfpack

North Carolina forward Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels had plenty of offensive rebounding success against N.C. State earlier this month.
North Carolina forward Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels had plenty of offensive rebounding success against N.C. State earlier this month. ROBERT WILLETT -- rwillett@newsobserver.com

Greetings from Raleigh, where in mere moments I will begin the trek over to PNC Arena – with perhaps a quick detour to Char-Grill – for North Carolina vs. N.C. State: Part II. Part I wasn’t much of a game.

Let’s get to that, along with the keys tonight

Projected starting lineups

UNC (20-7, 10-4 ACC)

G Marcus Paige 16.9 ppg, 4.6 apg

G Leslie McDonald 11.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg

F J.P. Tokoto 9 ppg, 5.6 rpg

F James Michael McAdoo 14.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg

F Kennedy Meeks 7.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg

N.C. State (17-10, 7-7)

G Tyler Lewis 4.1 ppg, 3.5 apg

G Ralston Turner 10.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg

F T.J. Warren 23.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg

F Kyle Washington 5 ppg, 4 rpg

C Jordan Vandenberg 4.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg


The Tar Heels led from the start, built a 40-23 halftime lead and led by double-digits throughout the second half of an 84-70 victory against the Wolfpack at the Smith Center on Feb. 1. Leslie McDonald led UNC with 20 points, and James Michael McAdoo finished with 16. T.J. Warren led N.C. State with 21 points, and Desmond Lee came off the bench to score 18. The teams were relatively even statistically in most categories – shooting percentage, turnovers – but UNC held a significant edge in rebounding. The Tar Heels rebounded 22 of their missed shots – N.C. State had just 12 offensive rebounds – and UNC outscored the Wolfpack 20-8 in second-chance points.


1. Get off to a good start.

N.C. State lost the game in the first five minutes in Chapel Hill. The Wolfpack trailed 6-0, then 12-2 and then 18-4, and it never recovered. By the time N.C. State settled down and started playing better in the second half, it was far too late.

2. Limit UNC’s second chances.

That’s far easier said than done for N.C. State, which is one of the worst rebounding teams in the nation. The Wolfpack ranks last in the ACC – and 334th nationally – in defensive rebounding percentage (64 percent). Conversely, UNC is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation. The Tar Heels exploited N.C. State’s weakness in the first meeting, and the Wolfpack has to find a way to close the gap.

3. Play like you mean it.

N.C. State has provided two of its worst efforts of the season in rivalry games – and lopsided defeats – against Duke and UNC. Both of those losses came on the road, amid hostile environments, and in both games N.C. State never appeared up to the task. The Wolfpack will be playing in front of an energized home crowd on Wednesday night, and this is a must-win for the NCAA tournament. There should be no shortage of motivation.


1. If it ain’t broke

Don’t fix it. The Tar Heels have won nine consecutive games and, outside of Virginia, have been the ACC’s most consistent team. UNC is defending well, rebounding well and shooting well – especially after halftime (UNC has shot 59.6 percent in the second half of its past three victories). The Tar Heels will attempt to keep doing what they’ve been doing.

2. Keep T.J. Warren in check.

Warren, the ACC’s leading scorer, finished with 21 points and eight rebounds in the first meeting between these teams. You never got the sense that he really got going, though, and he received little help from his teammates. Perhaps it’s a meaningless stat, but N.C. State is 9-0 when Warren scores at least 27 points. Limit him and UNC will be in a good position for its 10th consecutive victory.

3. Take advantage of second chance opportunities.

It’s not rocket science, folks: one of the Tar Heels’ biggest strengths is one of N.C. State’s most glaring weaknesses. UNC’s offensive rebounding percentage (38.8 percent) ranks 10th nationally and first in the ACC, and the Tar Heels have been on a tear lately on the offensive glass. In their past five games, they’ve exceeded their average in offensive rebounding percentage. UNC has to convert offensive rebounds into points, though.