North Carolina has been pretty good at playing two games in three days.
The way the schedule broke this week for the Tar Heels, it was like an NCAA tournament — a really cool NCAA regional with Duke on Thursday and N.C. State on Saturday.
“It has been fun,” senior guard Joel Berry said.
That’s because UNC downed Duke on Thursday and followed that up with a 96-89 win at N.C. State on Saturday.
Junior forward Luke Maye scored a career-high 33 points, while Berry added 16 and the Heels dominated the Wolfpack inside and on the glass.
The quick turnaround was familiar for a team that has played 12 NCAA tournament games the past two years.
“Those back-to-back games, we love them,” Berry said.
Berry even enjoyed the hostile environment. Berry said earlier in the week that he did not consider N.C. State to be UNC’s rival. That didn’t go over well with Wolfpack fans, who booed Berry early and often.
But Berry said his comments were probably a good thing for N.C. State.
“Maybe they can look back and say thank you because me saying that they probably sold more tickets,” Berry said.
The Heels were happy to get the win back from N.C. State, after losing 95-91 on Jan. 27 in Chapel Hill.
In that game, UNC’s defense couldn’t stop N.C. State guard Markell Johnson in pick-and-roll sets. Johnson had 20 points and 11 assists in N.C. State’s win at the Smith Center.
Johnson finished with 12 points and nine assists on Saturday, but Berry’s defense helped force six turnovers by the N.C. State point guard.
UNC coach Roy Williams made an adjustment from the first game by keeping Berry on Johnson and not switching on ball screens.
“If we’re alive, we played them better (on ball screens) than we did in that first meeting,” Williams said.
UNC had no problems on the glass, with a 41-24 rebounding edge, which helped the Heels outscore N.C. State 21-7 on second-chance points.
A whopping 60 of UNC’s points came in the paint with Maye, who made 15 of his 22 shots, leading the way.
The Heels shot a sizzling 78.1 percent (25-of-32) in the second half and scored on 29 of the 30 possessions they did not turn the ball over.
It’s the best shooting percentage in a half by UNC in Williams’ 15 seasons.
The turnovers (19) equaled a season high, but UNC was able to overcome its mistakes. The Tar Heels even survived a 19-0 run by N.C. State in the first half.
Williams, as his norm, did not call a timeout during the run.
“I told them I was not going to call timeout because State was kicking our rear end because we weren’t competing,” Williams said. “They needed to grow up.”
The players responded by scoring seven straight points and making it a two-point game, 37-35 at the half.
UNC’s offense did the rest in the second half with 61 points, 27 by Maye, to complete a unique two-game sweep of its neighbors.
“Just getting wins, that’s what we needed, especially against two in-state teams,” Berry said “You always want to beat them.”
Even better if you do it twice in three days.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio