RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina took another step forward in its 86-74 victory at frenzied N.C. State on Tuesday night.
The Tar Heels’ businesslike performance was a thing of beauty at times and required considerable focus at other times. The Wolfpack did a nice job of fighting for its NCAA Tournament life, and made the Tar Heels work. But UNC was just too good once again for an N.C. State team that is now on the outside looking in at the NCAA field.
UNC improved to 24-4 overall and 11-2 in the ACC, while N.C. State dropped to 18-10, 7-6.
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Here are the grades for both teams’ performances Tuesday night:
UNC offense: When your point guard scores 22 points, hands out 13 assists and doesn’t commit a turnover, it’s hard to imagine being much better. Carolina converted 50.9 percent of its shot attempts, including 52.6 percent (10-for-19) from 3-point range, and even hit 75 percent of its free throws. UNC did a nice job recognizing what was available and on only a handful of occasions forced things. Grade: A.
State offense: The Pack did a really nice job hanging with the Heels in the first half by getting plenty of looks around the rim. C.J. Leslie (24 points 12 boards), in particular, was excellent. State had much more success there than it did in Chapel Hill, so there’s some clear improvement. But the Pack was just 3-for-13 from beyond the arc and overall ended up hitting just 41.4 percent of its field goal attempts. On the plus side, State committed just four turnovers. Grade: C.
UNC defense: Carolina allowed too many open looks in the first half. The Heels were slow to rotate a few times, but really got better after State tied the score at 30-30. They limited the Pack’s looks on the perimeter, notably to leading scorer and sharp-shooter Scott Wood, who was just 1-for-5 with 3 points. Grade: B.
State defense: The Wolfpack did a nice job of keeping UNC’s bigs from getting conventional touches on the lower blocks and also kept UNC from dominating the offensive glass. Otherwise, State was awful. It didn’t defend the perimeter and had no answers for Harrison Barnes (20 points). UNC had 19 assist to just 9 turnovers and made more than half of its shots. Grade: D.
UNC intangibles: The Tar Heels were focused out of the gate in opening up a 19-5 lead, taking some steam out of the nearly 20,000 frenzied Wolfpack fans. UNC also responded to State’s first-half run, and any time the Pack made a move the Heels responded in the second half. This was as focused team for mostly 40 minutes. Grade: A.
State intangibles: After falling the way it did at Duke last Thursday and at home to FSU on Saturday, it would have been real easy for the Pack to wilt when UNC opened an early lead. But the Pack didn’t. It sowed grit, fight and pride, all good signs for the future of the program, because these are things instilled in part by Mark Gottfried. The Pack just didn’t always play smart basketball nor did it play enough defense. Grade: B.