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Heel Tough Blog: NC State Recap

AP Photo

It wasn't the way Carolina drew it up, but behind a big defensive second half, Carolina erased an eight-point deficit, to earn a regular season sweep of the NC State Wolfpack, and in the process, took one step closer to winning an ACC regular season title. State was able to build their halftime lead, by closing the first half on a 14-1 run, as they shot 58% from the field, and over 60% from behind the arc. D.J. Horne, led them with 16 first-half points, picking up where he left off, basically the entire second half of league play. Carolina also shot over 50% in the opening frame, but a few costly turnovers allowed State to put some distance between them, in the closing minutes. It was going to be interesting to see how Carolina responded in the second half, and they did so in a big way, using a 13-2 run out of the gate, to even up the score. During that time, and deeper into the second half, Carolina would force State to miss 15 straight shots, and in the process, not only took the lead but built a double-digit advantage, one they would never relinquish. 

Harrison Ingram has struggled offensively since the Duke game, but it appears that rivalry games bring out the best in him, as today he scored a season-high 22 points, on 8-14 shooting, to lead Carolina in scoring. Not only did he play at a high level, but so did Elliot Cadeau, who put together arguably his most complete performance of the season, scoring 15 points, handing out 7 assists, and grabbing 5 rebounds. Those efforts helped overcome subpar games from both R.J. Davis and Armando Bacot, but in the process, today’s win reinforced how good this team is, and that they can win on days where the best players don’t play well. 

Carolina shot 47% for the game, and 38% from behind the arc. But what made Carolina’s offense so efficient and effective, was the getting to the foul line 27 times, converting on 23 of them, scoring plenty of times with the clock stopped. It’s that formula that helped propel them to the top of the ACC standings, and that is the formula needed to win this time of the year, when regular season, conference tournament, and national champions are determined. 

Hubert Davis challenged his team at the half, and they passed it with flying colors on their way to an impressive come-from-behind win, in front of a rowdy Smith Center crowd. That second half was a nice reminder of this team’s potential when they play at their best on both ends of the floor. Here’s what to take away from another win over NC State:

  1. Continued Dominance Against the Pack: Today marked the 166th time that Carolina has beaten NC State, the most of any opponent in program history. In Chapel Hill, Carolina improved to 82-23, including 31-7 in the Dean Dome. Carolina is 38-6 in the last 44 games against NC State, and 55-13 across the last 32 seasons. And via Adam Lucas’s Rapid Reactions article on, UNC is 86-27 against State, since David Thompson left Raleigh. 

  2. Big Defensive Second Half: Not only did Carolina hold State to 25 points, on 22% shooting, D.J. Horne scored just 4 points, after scoring 16 in the first half. Carolina turned up the pressure, and in the process, State melted down, missing 15 straight shots at one point, as UNC seized control of the game. Despite shooting 58% in the first half, State shot just 42% from the field for the game, which isn’t good enough to win on the road in the ACC, or any conference for that matter. 

  3. Harrison Ingram Steps Up: After making some costly mistakes down the stretch against Miami on Monday, Ingram responded in a major way, scoring a season-high 22 points, on 8-14 shooting, to put together one of his best games offensively. State did a good job of taking away Davis in the first half, and Bacot was off balance all game long, and Ingram stepped up, to make winning plays in both halves. For Carolina to truly emerge as a national title contender, they need another scoring threat outside of Davis and Bacot, and Ingram is the best candidate for that responsibility. Let’s hope today was a stepping stone for him offensively, as we head into the final week of the regular season. 

  4. Rebounding: On a day where neither Bacot nor Ingram totaled double-digit rebounds, Carolina outrebounded NC State 34-31, making it the 17th straight game they’ve outrebounded their opponent. Davis and Bacot tied for the team lead with 7 rebounds, apiece, followed by Ingram’s six. Hubert Davis has talked about them rebounding more as a team, and not expecting Bacot or Ingram to gobble up all the rebounds, and that’s exactly what happened today, and it translated to a win. 

  5. Free Throws: After things got chippy in the second half, the whistle tightened, and eventually both teams were in the bonus before the under-12 timeout in the second half. Carolina stayed aggressive, as they fouled out Casey Morsell with a lot of time left, and had virtually every State big man in foul trouble. More importantly, Carolina made them pay the foul line, going 23-27. Bacot led the way, after going 1-6 against Miami, he was 5-5 yesterday. Every Tar Heel starter made at least two free throws in the game. 

Up Next: Carolina concludes its three-game homestand, when they host Notre Dame in the home finale on Tuesday night, at 7 PM on ESPN. Of course, that game will serve as Carolina’s annual Senior Night, in what will be Armando Bacot’s final home game at UNC, and very well could be R.J. Davis’s. 

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