The Wolfpack came out with eight minutes of inspired basketball to take an early double digit lead before UNC responded in kind over the next 32 minutes on the way to an 80-68 win.
NC State got the start it hoped for with Cat Barber laying waste to both Joel Berry and Nate Britt's attempts to defend him. The Wolfpack guard scored 16 of NC State's first 23 points pacing NCSU to an early 23-10 lead. UNC matched baskets early with a 4-4 start but fell into a rough stretch hitting just 2-12 permitting while the Wolfpack seemingly could not miss. To that point the game had operated at a frenetic pace, the kind that normally favors UNC but through the first eight minutes NC State or specifically Cat Barber was the aggressor.
The Tar Heels would eventually settle down and the shots started falling thanks in large part to Justin Jackson. The sophomore wing forward had 14 points in the first half to fuel the Tar Heel rally. NC State also slowed the tempo on the offensive end. After two fouls each on Berry and Britt, Marcus Paige and Theo Pinson took turns guarding Barber. He scored just two points over the final 12 minutes on of the half.
After being down by as many as 13, UNC cut the lead to 27-24 on a Jackson three point. Paige's three pointer coming off a ball screen tied the game and Jackson's second triple of the half gave UNC its first lead of the game. UNC's 14-0 run turned a five point deficit into a nine point lead. A less than ideal finish to the half by the Tar Heels left it just a five point margin at the break.
After halftime, NC State took a couple of shots at UNC in an effort to get back into the game. The Tar Heels extended the lead to 45-35 on a pair of Brice Johnson free throws before a Cat Barber jumper and Maverick Rowan three sliced the deficit to five. UNC asserted control again to go up 52-43 but didn't push it further. After three straight empty possessions, the Wolfpack used a five point spurt to cut the lead to four. That was as close as NC State would get for the remainder of the evening. The Tar Heels methodically opened the lead over the next several minutes of game play using a crisp offense and solid defensive work to push the lead to as much as 19.
Brice Johnson led UNC with 22 points while grabbing 11 rebounds but it was Justin Jackson's played in the first half that pulled the Tar Heels out of an early hole. He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. Joel Berry had 11 points and Marcus Paige closed out the double figure scoring with 10 points.