North Carolina throttles NC State, 97-73, handing Pack sixth straight loss

Berry, Meeks combine for 35 points in lopsided victory for Tar Heels in Raleigh

RALEIGH — Mark Gottfried and NC State needed a good showing against North Carolina after the week they’ve had. With questions about his job status and a five-game losing streak in tact, Gottfried needed to silence some critics. A 97-73 loss in historic fashion to UNC wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.After losing by 51 points in Chapel Hill when UNC scored 107 points — the most by a team in the rivalry’s history — it came away with a 24-point victory in Raleigh. The 24 points marked the largest win over NC State for Carolina in PNC Arena since 2006. The 75-point total deficit is the second largest ever between the two teams, behind only a 79-point advantage for UNC in 1992-93.”I feel for them,” UNC coach Roy Williams said following the game. “They’re going through some tough times. But my job is to win.”The Wolfpack was dominated in nearly every fashion on Wednesday night, getting out shot, out rebounded and out defended. It was the sixth straight loss for the Pack, the fourth consecutive defeat at home and the third straight by a 24-point margin or more.Most importantly, UNC got up early and stepped on NC State’s throat. Kennedy Meeks finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, Luke Maye had a career-high 13 points and Justin Jackson tallied 14 points. After talking a big game earlier in the week, Joel Berry backed it up with a team-high 18 points — which he felt earned him the right to talk again.”I think they gave up a little bit,” Berry said. “They have the pieces. I’m not trying to knock anything that they’re doing. They have a good team. … They did that last time. We just wanted to come out and attack them tonight.”To be fair, it wasn’t far from the truth.NC State got the deficit to withing six points near the end of the first half, but faced a 51-27 deficit heading to the locker room. The Heels then pounded State early in the second half, pulling away by a 23-point margin by the 11:56 mark then eventually 29 with 2:10 left.The lack of energy in the second half wasn’t solely observed by Berry.”We didn’t come out with as much effort in the second half and it definitely showed,” Dennis Smith Jr. said. “… I know me personally, I never quit regardless of the circumstances. I’m sure my team doesn’t quit. We’ve got some fighters on this squad.”Smith finished with a game-high 27 points — more than the next two players in Maverick Rowan (12) and Abdul-Malik Abu (10) for NC State combined — along with six assists and four rebounds.Wednesday night, in essence, was just more of the same for both sides. Carolina finished with the 41-25 rebounding advantage. UNC punched in 23 points off turnovers to NC State’s 11. The Heels held the points in the paint advantage by a final margin of — brace yourselves, Pack fans — 60-22.The most visible disadvantage for the Pack was on the boards, which obviously led to a lead in nearly every other statistical category. In one of the most crucial games on the calendar for NC State, Abu, Omer Yurtseven, Ted Kapita and BeeJay Anya combined for three defensive rebounds in 65 minutes. Three players for UNC — Meeks (6), Nate Britt (4) and Luke Maye (3) — had as many on their own.While NC State has one of the most talented lineups in the Mark Gottfried era, he certainly didn’t allude to it after the loss to UNC. He used a golfing analogy (tangent?) that started off with him discussing one talented golfer and another not-so-talented, then sort of complimented UNC (I think?).”You can put two guys out there golfing sometimes and one guy might be better than the other guy,” Gottfried explained, “the other guy can try all he wants, but the other guy’s probably gonna beat him. I can go play against Jordan Spieth and I’ve got no chance. I’m not saying it’s that kind of margin, but you’ve got to give those guys credit. They did a good job.”When the final buzzer sounded on Wednesday night, both teams where heading in the exact same direction they where when the game started. The Heels are still at the top of the ACC totem pole while NC State remains near the bottom. Carolina is still in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament while State needs to win out in the regular season to get in contention for an NIT bid.After a year of optimism for both, it was very clear on Wednesday night which team will follow through on the promise it showed in the offseason.