Point guards on display as N.C. State meets No. 14 UNC (Jan 08, 2017)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It might be difficult to determine which point guard is coming off a better game when North Carolina State and No. 14 North Carolina meet on Sunday.

But it figures that the spotlight will fall on N.C. State freshman Dennis Smith Jr. and North Carolina junior Joel Berry as the teams collide for their first Atlantic Coast Conference encounter of the season at the Smith Center.

Smith produced the second triple-double in N.C. State history with his 27-point, 11-rebound, 11-assist performance in Wednesday night’s 104-78 thrashing of No. 21 Virginia Tech.

“He has got the whole package,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “He’s one of the premier point guards in our country already. He really doesn’t have any weaknesses as a point guard.”

Smith became the first ACC freshman to record a triple-double against a conference opponent.

“Did it within the framework of everything we’re trying to do,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “He’s learning all of that.”

Smith is anxious to do more.

“I think we can be better than that,” Smith said.

Smith’s skills were originally slated to be on display Saturday but the conetst was pushed back one day due to wintry weather. North Carolina cited “the likelihood of dangerous and worsening road conditions” as a prime factor in the postponement.

Meanwhile, Berry scored 31 points to help North Carolina escape with an overtime victory Tuesday night at Clemson.

On Friday, Berry said he still felt some of the fatigue associated with illness a week ago and then a 41-minute outing in the overtime game.

But Berry, who has evolved into an on-court leader, said he knows it’s important for him to be available as much as possible. Even when Williams inquired about his condition, Berry didn’t want to come out of the game.

“I keep on pushing,” Berry said, noting that he’s more willing to show emotion on the count than earlier in his career. “That just sends (a positive message) throughout the whole team. … Just showing a passion for the game and that I care what we’re doing as a team.”

Berry was 7-for-10 on 3-pointers after going a combined 2-for-12 from long range in the two previous games.

Beyond Smith, N.C. State put together a strong effort in the Virginia Tech game. That was right on cue to add to the buildup of the visit to North Carolina.

“It’s great timing,” Wolfpack guard Terry Henderson said. “We’re going to look forward to that (North Carolina game). I feel like we need to make a statement. It helps us gain our confidence, gain our swagger back.”

N.C. State is aiming for consecutive victories against ranked opponents for the first time since the winter of 2007, with the second one of those coming against North Carolina.

The Tar Heels should receive a boost in their ACC home debut.

North Carolina will have junior swingman Theo Pinson available for the first time. He had preseason foot surgery and has been making steady progress.

Williams said it’s difficult to determine how much Pinson will play or how his role will be defined, but he knows the player offers many of the intangibles that can be critical to the outcome.

“It’s not going be (him) going out there and be smooth sailing,” Williams said, noting the layoff.

Still, the Tar Heels welcome the chance to play at full strength.

“I look forward to getting him back out on the court,” Berry said. “It’s going to be fun having him back.”

N.C. State practiced Friday at the Smith Center before returning to Raleigh as the region braced for a winter storm.

North Carolina has won 19 of the last 21 meetings against the Wolfpack, holding an all-time lead of 153-77 in the series.