One of the best parts of ACC basketball, and Carolina Basketball is the rivalries that have been established over time. Tonight we renew another chapter in Carolina-State rivalry over in Raleigh. The last time we saw Carolina on the floor, they throttled a depleted Miami team, 94-71. Brandon Robinson scored a career best 29 points, as the team shot a blistering 58% from the field. As Roy Williams often says, everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket and that is certainly true for this team. The win improved the record to 9-10 ( 2-6 ), as it's evident it's time to kick this season into gear. The challenge is carrying over all that success, and applying it in what will be one of the more emotional, hostile arenas they'll compete in all season long.
N.C. State enters tonight with a 14-6 record, seeking consistency. Earlier last week State was able to go into Virginia and upset the defending national champions. On Saturday they followed that up with a road loss at Georgia Tech. If that doesn't sum up the season for the Wolfpack, nothing will. Kevin Keatts' team is led by C.J. Bryce as they put 4 players in double figures. Markel Johnson scores over 13 points per game, and he may not only be the most talented player for State, but also their most important. The challenge they present any team is their 4 guard lineup, which puts constant pressure on a defense. The smaller lineup allows them to press at a variety of different situations. The players will feed off the emotion that'll be in PNC Arena, as they try to secure a home victory against it's biggest rival.
North Carolina and Roy Williams may own State, but none of that matters tonight. Marcus Paige and Luke Maye aren't on the roster, and with a 9-10 record Carolina is vulnerable. State knows that. Carolina has to find a way to apply the good things they did on Saturday, in this game to give them a chance. Here are 3 keys to securing a road win in Raleigh:
1. Handling Pressure: State is going to press early, and they are going to press often. That isn't out of the norm for them, but expect it to be ramped up even more tonight. If Cole Anthony and Jeremiah Francis can't play, that leaves Carolina with just a select amount of ballhandlers they trust to run the offense. How does Leaky Black handle the pressure and physical nature State will play with? How does the offense press break? The key is getting past the timeline, because once you get State in the half-court, the Wolfpack aren't as capable defensively.
2. Containing the Dribble: As mentioned earlier, the Wolfpack are going to spread the floor, and attack the rim. We've seen this team struggle as keeping guards out of the lane, so much to the extent that Roy Williams has mixed his defenses more than ever this year. If you're able to make State make shots, you have a chance, if not it's going to be hard to win if you can't keep the opponent from getting layups and dunks.
3. Making Shots: It's hard to ask any team to follow up a game where they shoot 58%, and ask them to do it again, but Carolina will need to make shots in this game. Expect plenty of double teams when the ball goes to Garrison Brooks, so there will be opportunities. Can Brandon Robinson continue to be a reliable shooter? Leaky Black has hit shots when they've presented himself. Can he do that tonight? Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling might've found renewed confidence after Saturday, are they going to be able to contribute to the cause in this game? Carolina is going to get their own in the paint, but if they make shots they'll give themselves a great chance tonight.
Series History: The Tar Heels have bested their rivals from Raleigh, 158-78. Carolina has won 30 of the last 34, and 47 of the last 58. In Raleigh, Carolina is 66-46, including 16-4 in PNC, as the dominance isn't just in Chapel Hill. Roy Williams is 35-4 all time against the Wolfpack.
UNC - 89th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.1 ( 102nd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.0 ( 88th )
NC State - 48th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.8 ( 22nd ) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.9 ( 99th )
TV Info: Tonight's rivalry matchup will tip at 7 with ESPN carrying the game as part of their Big Monday coverage.
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