RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State pulled out all the stops against North Carolina in a game that was the Wolfpack’s one final hope of grabbing a signature regular season win.
The athletic department honored the 1988-89 N.C. State team that featured Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta before the tip. After that, they handed out balloons for students to hold behind the goals during free throws. In the first media timeout, Tom O’Brien and members of the football team that have beaten UNC each of the past five years were recognized.
All that was missing was a Wolfpack victory.
North Carolina went wire-to-wire against its Raleigh foes, enduring a close first-half run before opening the game midway through the second half in the Tar Heels’86-74 win on Tuesday.
“We were concerned and we knew the crowd would really be fired up, so I said the best way to not worry about the crowd is to play well,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “And let’s try to play great tonight, and you’ll be able to hear what I’m yelling at you and talk on the court.”
The No. 7 Tar Heels (24-4, 11-2 ACC) jumped out to a 19-5 after just more than five minutes had ticked off the clock, dousing water on the raging fire that was Wolfpack fans in the RBC Center.
It definitely allows you to think better and have peace of mind,” said Harrison Barnes of quieting the crowd early. In games where we haven’t gotten off to a good start —UNLV and Kentucky — you can’t think, people start fumbling the basketball and leads them to another run.
“I mean I knew they were amped to play us, we knew they wanted the worse things to happen to us on the court. We just kind of embraced that enemy look and just had to go out there and put down the wolves.”
Midway through the first half, the Tar Heels pushed their lead to 11. Then, the Wolfpack (18-10, 7-6), led by sophomore forward C.J. Leslie, would go on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 30-all. But the home team could never grab the lead, going into halftime down 46-41.
In the second half, North Carolina continued to knock down its newly rediscovered 3-pointers as they pulled away from State. UNC finished the night going 10-for-19 from deep, the most since the Jan. 29 Georgia Tech game.
The win was UNC’s 12th straight against the Wolfpack and 18th out of 19. And the No. 7 Tar Heels have Kendall Marshall to thank for continuing the streak.
The sophomore guard entered the game averaging 6.6 points per game— good for sixth on the team— and an ACC-leading 9.7 assists per game. He finished the night with a team- and career-high 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting (4-for-5 from 3-point range), 13 assists and zero turnovers.
“They played him like Rondo and he scored like D-Rose,” Barnes said simply.
When the Wolfpack would switch to its zone defense to focus more on shooters like Barnes and Reggie Bullock (who combined for half of UNC’s made 3-pointers), Marshall’s offensive prowess was able to take over. Williams said other teams have done the same to Marshall, but he didn’t make any of them pay like he did the Wolfpack.
“That’s what he can do for us,” junior forward John Henson said. “I’m not surprised but I thought it was coming because people are looking for him to pass so much, so I think things just open up for him.”
Against Clemson, Marshall turned in a 13 assist-three turnover performance in the Smith Center that had Williams saying he’d take that any day. While the stat sheet reads “Marshall: 0 TOs,” both he and his coach agreed he should have been credited with at least two turnovers that went through the hands of the intended target.
“He asked me after the game how many turnovers, I guess I had two or three,” Marshall admitted. “I guess they gave it to the catcher, so I’m not that mad.”
Better them than Butter.
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