UNC gets even with NC State in rematch

The Wolfpack lost for the second time this season after a long pause due to COVID-19

North Carolina guard Caleb Love (2) drives to the basket against North Carolina State guard Devon Daniels (24) and forward Manny Bates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina avenged a loss to NC State last month and prevented the Wolfpack from sweeping the Tar Heels in the regular season for the first time in 18 years with an 86-76 win in Chapel Hill.

In the first matchup, on Dec. 22, State led by 17 in what UNC coach Roy Williams called one of the worst defensive performances he’d coached in his career.

While Carolina improved on the defensive end, it was the Tar Heels’ offense that led them to victory. UNC shot a season-best 58.6% in the first half, scoring a point per possession and building a 10-point halftime lead, its best of the season.

The Tar Heels also set season highs for shooting and scoring in the game.

The win improved UNC coach Roy Williams to 38-5 against the Wolfpack as a head coach. The Tar Heels have won three straight over the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill and 16 of the last 18.

Three thoughts

1. NC State expected to be shorthanded after missing 10 days due to COVID issues. The day before the game, coach Kevin Keatts said the Pack would have more players available than they did when they played at St. Louis, following their first prolonged COVID break of the season. But all 14 Wolfpack players on the roster dressed and took part in warmups, including Manny Bates, who was questionable recovering from an ankle sprain.

2. The Tar Heels got balanced scoring with five players in double figures, including four freshmen, the first time UNC has done that since 2007. Anthony Harris, still working his way back from a leg injury that kept him out more than a year, scored 10 points in 10 minutes.

“Maybe I should play him 40 minutes next time,” coach Roy Williams said.

3. Carolina got 17 points from Armando Bacot and a double-double from Day’Ron Sharpe, but NC State was able to compete with the Tar Heels’ big men inside. Bates, still hobbling on a bad ankle, hit 5-of-6 shots for 10 points and blocked seven shots, many of them dunk and layup attempts. UNC senior Garrison Brooks seemed to struggle against Bates and DJ Funderburk, fouling out with four points.

Number to Know

0-for-1 — Shooting line for Shakeel Moore, who was the breakout star of the first game. In Raleigh, Moore scored 17 points in 15 minutes, hitting 6-of-11 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three. Moore was held scoreless in four minutes in Chapel Hill.

They Said It

“I want the big guys to be great while I’m alive, and I’ll continue to ride them. Will probably do so after I die and haunt them in their nightmares.”

— Tar Heels coach Roy Williams

Player of the Game

Caleb Love, Tar Heels guard — The freshman had a nightmare game in Raleigh, hitting 3-of-14 and getting removed from the game on offense during critical late-game possessions. Love scored on three driving layups early in the rematch and finished 6-of-15 with 15 points. He also dished out a game-high five assists and was a plus-11 for the game.

Critical thinking

Coaches often say that their teams can adjust to officials calling a game unusually tight or loose, as long as they’re consistent. The officiating crew of Roger Ayers, Pat Driscoll and Tony Henderson could not have been farther from that ideal. The first half flew by with long stretches of play as officials only called a total of eight fouls on the two teams combined.

Apparently the halftime snack didn’t agree with the crew, however, because they called more than a foul per minute in the second half, exceeding their first-half foul total before the second (of four) media timeouts in the second half. Play seemed to be stopped every possession on both ends. The calls didn’t seem to favor either side, but they ground the game to a halt, making it impossible for either team to find a rhythm and spoiling what had been a crisp, clean game for 20 minutes.