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UNC vs. NC State: Three Things Learned

The Tar Heels humbled the Wolfpack to complete their three-game road trip undefeated.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at N.C. State Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina fans have had to hear a little too much from NC State fans since February 19th, 2023. That was when the Wolfpack took down the Tar Heels in Raleigh, which also means we almost reached 365 days since a Carolina revenue sports team were able to secure a win against them. Yes, that’s a very dramatic way to say that we lost two revenue sporting events in a row, but then again we’re talking about a very dramatic fan base that we’ve had to put up with, right? You know what else is dramatic? UNC’s win percentage at PNC arena.

Now that I got that out of my system, let’s put our serious glasses on and discuss three things that we learned from UNC’s win against the Wolfpack.

Harrison Ingram is a coach’s dream

Over the last two games, Harrison Ingram has had performances that I can only imagine makes every coach in the country jealous of Hubert Davis. He is truly a rarity in college basketball, and even more rare when it comes to the Tar Heels. Think about it: when was the last time we’ve seen someone shoot sub-45% in three games, but rack up 38 rebounds during that span? This is without factoring in what he’s been able to get done on the defensive side of the ball, which we will get into more a bit later.

Ingram finished his night in Raleigh with nine points, 19 rebounds, and an assist. His rebound total is the highest that any Tar Heel has ever had against NC State, topping Armando Bacot’s 18 rebounds from last season. He was a lot more efficient shooting the ball than he had been in recent games — he finished his night shooting 44% from the field — but once again it was all of the other aspects of his game that truly shined. I cannot say enough good things about the Stanford transfer, and I really do think his contributions make this a team that could make it to the Final Four. Yes, I’m ready to go there, especially after so many top ten teams showed they can’t handle true road games like the Heels can. Speaking of road games...

UNC’s road success will pay off in March

I realize that this is stating the obvious, but it needs to be said that what UNC’s been able to do on the road this month isn’t normal. For one, their ACC schedule usually doesn’t involve a three-game road trip in the first four games. More importantly, we only really see Carolina teams do this well on the road that eventually do some serious damage in the NCAA Tournament, and even then it’s not a perfect system. For example: the 2017 National Championship team opened conference play with a 63-75 loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The last time we saw this happen is during the 2018-19 season, and things probably would’ve went differently in the NCAA Tournament if the flu bug didn’t come after Cam Johnson and Nassir Little.

All of this is to say that we as fans should not take what the Heels have been doing for granted. If we have learned anything over the last seven days is that it is very, very difficult to win road games in conference play. It’s truly remarkable that seven of the AP top 10 teams have lost road games in their respective conferences, yet Houston, Kentucky, and Carolina have yet to blemish their record in that department. The Heels get to return home for a couple of games, but hopefully they will be able to keep this road streak going when they face off against Boston College on January 20th.

A lot of us weren’t alive the last time NC State shot this poorly against UNC

The Tar Heels have always had their way with NC State in this rivalry game, but they were able to accomplish something last night against the Pack that is very rare. UNC held State to just 26.9% shooting for the entire game, which according to Inside Carolina’s Adam Smith is the lowest field goal percentage for the Wolfpack against the Tar Heels since at least 1954.

Kevin Keatts prides himself on the fact that a lot of his players tend to contribute on offense, but last night was the complete opposite. DJ Burns and Casey Morsell were the only two players to (barely) crack double-digits, and the second-highest scorers were DJ Horne and Jayden Taylor with six. The Tar Heels have been playing really impressive defense in conference play, with all three of their recent opponents failing to crack 40% from the field. The offense still hasn’t been as good as it was earlier in the season, but this is why being able to play well on defense can pay off big time, particularly on the road. UNC will get more shots to fall eventually, but for now their defense, their rebounding, and their overall toughness is why they are now alone at the top of the ACC.