I said on the podcast on Monday afternoon that I believed the Tar Heels would win the game against the NC State Wolfpack on Tuesday night because of the history in this series. The two times the Tar Heels and Wolfpack have met this season, the Wolfpack have been the more talented team, but in the first game, the Wolfpack could not shake the historic struggles they have had against Roy Williams and the Tar Heels to win an important game at home. With Carolina entering Tuesday night’s game just one game away from tying the longest losing streak in school history, it felt like this was a huge chance for the Wolfpack to shake that stigma and pull out an important win to keep them in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the history loomed too large, as the Tar Heels stepped up to deal a blow to the Wolfpack’s tournament hopes.
Luke Maye’s departure in the offseason left many asking who the next player to take the title of Wolfpack killer would be and as we found out once again on Tuesday night, that answer was Garrison Brooks. Brooks led the Tar Heels in scoring once again, dominating the post to drop 30 points on 8-15 from the field. After struggling for the bulk of the ACC slate at the free throw line, Brooks finished Tuesday night’s game 14-16 at the charity stripe, including 6-6 from the line in the final minute of the game to help seal the victory. Brooks finished just one rebound short of a double-double, but pulled down a couple of timely rebounded, another thing that had been a struggle for him as of late.
While Brooks was fantastic, he wasn’t the only Tar Heel to piece together a great night against the Wolfpack. Christian Keeling, who has been rounding into form lately, played a huge role off the bench, scoring 16 points on 7-9 shooting, knocking down two big threes late in the game, as well. Meanwhile, Cole Anthony provided an efficient 19 points on 7-12 from the field and knocked down a huge shot with the Tar Heel up 76-72 to extend the lead back out to six.
It has been a down year for this Tar Heel basketball program, but as Jon Crispin pointed out on the ESPN broadcast of the game, the Smith Center crowd has not given up on this team all year. This team hasn’t quit all season despite all they’ve been through and they proved that once again on Tuesday night in front of another ruckus crowd. The other thing they proved: even in the worst of years, this program owns NC State.
-Something that just hasn’t been as present as it was before Cole Anthony’s return is the points in the paint and that has been one of the main issues offensively for the Tar Heels. That was not an issue on Tuesday night, as 40 of the Tar Heels 85 points came in the painted area. If the Tar Heels want to start stringing together some wins, they’ll have to make this more consistent.
-After being thoroughly outrebounded on the glass against Louisville on Saturday, the Tar Heels had a nice bounce back performance against the Wolfpack on Tuesday night. The Tar Heels finished with a +8 advantage on the glass, including 13 offensive rebounds. Brooks and Pierce’s returns to the lineup definitely helped, but the team as a whole just put together a better overall effort in this game.
-The one negative from Tuesday night’s game was the play of Armando Bacot. In just 13 minutes on the floor, Bacot was a -18, going 1-5 from the field and struggling to provide much resistance on the defensive news. The good news is, Justin Pierce was up to the task, posting a +25 mark in time on the floor and having his best game defensively of the entire season, highlighted by three huge steals.