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UNC vs. NC State: Three Things Learned

The Wolfpack dug a hole that they just couldn’t get out of.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

First thing’s first: my prayers go out to NC State guard Terquavion Smith, who took a nasty fall in the second half of last night’s game and left on a stretcher. Smith tweeted last night that he is ok, which is great news to hear. Hopefully we will see him back on the court soon.

Shifting gears to the game as a whole, UNC showed up to the game against the Wolfpack fired up and ready to go. While the shooting efficiency wasn’t pretty, they found a way to gut out a win against a very physical team, and ultimately earn another Quad 1 win (assuming State doesn’t slip too far in the NET rankings). The Heels’ win also moves them into a tie for third place in the ACC, and just two games behind first place Clemson.

Let’s dive into the three things that we learned from yesterday’s heated rivalry game.

Bacot will shatter the rebounding record

It’s not everyday that a Tar Heel is able to break a school record in basketball, but somehow Armando Bacot found a way to break the career double-double record and rebounding records in the same night. UNC’s star big finished the game with 23 points, 18 rebounds, and went 8-13 from the field. Following the game, Tyler Hansbrough was waiting for him to greet him with the game ball, which was a really cool moment considering the fact that Bacot discussed earlier in the week how Hansbrough’s physicality put him in the hospital the first time these two played each other.

Now that Bacot has broken both records, he has a solid two months to pad his numbers. UNC has 11 games left in the regular season, and will play at least one postseason game. Going off of his 11.2 rebounds per game, he could pull down at least 110 more rebounds before the season is over. Let’s hope that he is able to stay healthy for the rest of the stretch, because I personally would like to see how high he can climb up in the ACC record book.

RJ Davis has been on fire lately

While there has been a lot of attention surrounding Caleb Love’s struggles, RJ Davis has scored 10+ points in every single game this season except in the Heels’ win against the Citadel. Perhaps more importantly, however, is what he’s been able to do on the perimeter — so far Davis is shooting 38.3% from three-point range this season, and last night marked the sixth game in a row in which he shot 50% or better from deep. Davis finished his night against the Wolfpack with a team-high 26 points and four rebounds off 5-8 shooting.

What was unique about Davis’ performance was how often he got to the free throw line, which we will dive a bit more into in the next section. He knocked down all 14 of his free throw attempts, making State pay for sending him to the line as often as they did. Hubert Davis said at the beginning of the season that this team will go as Davis goes, and it’s hard not to see how right he was as we get deeper into the season and he keeps getting getting better and better.

NC State got in their own way

While it’s really easy to praise UNC for their incredible game against NC State, we have to discuss the elephant in the room. See, the Wolfpack have had a pretty big foul problem all season long, and it was something that was pointed out a number of times before last night’s game. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the Wolfpack would almost certainly send the Heels to the free throw line quite a bit, especially since the Heels were already really good at getting to the line against other teams. However, I had no idea it was going to be this bad, and ultimately it was the biggest difference in the game.

The Tar Heels ended up shooting 39 free throws thanks to NC State fouling them 27 times. What’s truly impressive is that State could’ve gotten called for more, but the refs were a hot mess to put it lightly. I’m not going to dive into it, but there’s likely no better example than Leaky Black getting called for a Flagrant 2 foul for delivering an inadvertent blow to Terquavian Smith’s head, which was followed up by Casey Morsell getting called for a Flagrant 1 foul after hitting Caleb Love in the face. Ultimately in the grand scheme of things the call on Black doesn’t matter, but it still highlights some of the glaring inconsistencies that we’ve seen all season long.

Questionable officiating aside, what we can say for sure is that NC State gave UNC the best chance to win this game thanks to their aggressive, physical defense, which led to an outrageous amount of fouls. State fans will always play the victim when they lose to the Heels, but the fact of the matter is that the Pack did this to themselves, and they now have a 5-36 record against UNC in the last 41 games. To take it a step further, they are 12-53 against the Heels in the last 30+ seasons.

I’d venture to say that you can’t blame bad officiating for 53 losses against the same team, but that’s none of my business.