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UNC vs. NC State: Game Preview

The Heels look for the season sweep against the Wolfpack

North Carolina State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The #10 North Carolina Tar Heels travel to PNC PaigeNC Arena tonight to take on the Wolfpack. After nearly a week off since their loss in Durham, UNC needs to rebound against their other rival in Raleigh. NC State, losers of five straight, have plummeted to the cellar of the ACC and Coach Mark Gottfried is on the hot seat. Carolina needs to pounce on State and secure a victory to continue setting the pace atop the league standings. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM and can be seen on the ACC Network and heard on your local Tar Heel Sports Network affiliate.

North Carolina

For the Wolfpack to pull off the upset, they will need to hit a lot of threes. As seen last week, the three-point perimeter defense against Duke varied from inconsistent to nonexistent. The top three scorers on NC State’s team, Dennis Smith Jr., Terry Henderson, and Maverick Rowan are also the top three-point scorers on the team, with Henderson leading the way. The Tar Heels need to close the gap on the shooters and not allow for the iso off the dribble.

In short, the Heels need Isaiah Hicks. Kennedy Meeks without Hicks was simply not effective in the front court against Duke, especially in the first half. Hicks and Meeks complement each other. A healthy (or, at the very least, a playing) Hicks will be able to create more offensive opportunities by creating more space inside, especially against Abdul-Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya.

The Tar Heels need to get back to basics with this game. The sudden announcement of Hicks not playing against Duke seemed to create a level of uncertainty in their offensive and defensive game plans. An aggressive defense and efficiency in the offensive paint should help the Heels win on the road.

NC State

The Wolfpack need to take care of the basketball if they want to have a shot at a victory. State had 26 turnovers against Carolina in their first meeting, although during their five-game losing streak, it does not seem as though turnovers are their major issue.

In their last home game, a 84-79 loss to Miami, NC State shot 56.3 percent from the field, including 11 of 18 from three (61.1 percent). From the free-throw line, they were 14 of 17 (82.4 percent). The Wolfpack committed 11 turnovers during that game, the same amount as Miami. However, they were out-rebounded 36-21. Miami hauled down 17 offensive rebounds, while State had just five. If Isaiah Hicks does not play, NC State will have a great opportunity to get some more second-chance looks and must capitalize on them.

Lastly, let’s see if the Joel Berry versus Dennis Smith match up comes to fruition this time. With Smith on his home court, there is sure to be a much better duel between the two talented point guards.

UNC will win if

  • Convert second-chance opportunties
  • Make an early run to quiet the crowd
  • Play smart and aggressive team defense

UNC-R will win if

  • They sink a lot of threes, especially in the first half
  • Win the turnover battle
  • Win the rebounding battle