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February 22, 2013When listening to Roy Williams the last time the Tar Heels faced N.C. State, Williams wasn't thrilled at all by the performance his Tar Heels put out on the floor at the PNC Arena.
"It was a butt-kicking is what it was," said Williams. "I'm not big into moral victories whatsoever."
Williams later said in his interview, "I don't care about learning experiences. Learning experiences, that's for babies. Our guys have got to play. We've had enough learning experiences. We've got to play."
After the 91-83 loss to the Wolfpack, which wasn't as close as the score indicated, the Tar Heels knew that they had to whip into shape and no one was going to make excuses for them anymore.
Since that game on January 26, North Carolina (18-8, 8-5) has made some progress in many ways, along with a few changes in its game plan.
North Carolina has gone 5-2 since that game, with a blowout loss at Miami and a close loss at Duke mixed in with the triumphs.
UNC took care of business against Boston College, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Virginia, and Georgia Tech---all victories that allowed them to still be in the discussion for the NCAA Tournament.
P.J. Hairston's surge this winter into the starting lineup has the Tar Heel faithful believing in a late push into the postseason for UNC.
Now UNC looks to get a quality win that is needed on its resume when N.C. State (19-7, 8-5) travels to Chapel Hill on Saturday.
After the beat down that was handed to the Tar Heels in Raleigh, North Carolina couldn't wait for another chance for payback against the Wolfpack, showing the fans that "this is our state," something that N.C. State has announced all year long.
DON'T WANNA REMEMBER BUT CAN'T FORGET
It was a game that just looked awful from the start for UNC and never got to exciting until the end.
N.C. State ran up and down the floor, caused turnover after turnover, and pretty much beat down the Tar Heels in every aspect and beating them at their own game when the teams met the first time.
For those who need a reminder of the debacle in Raleigh, here were N.C State's stats from the game.
Field Goal Percentage: 49.2% (32-65)
Three Point Percentage: 53.8% (7-13)
Free throws: 20-23 (87%)
Rebounds/ Assists/ Steals: 36/ 22/ 9
Halftime Score/ Largest Lead: 45-26/ N.C. State by 28
Lorenzo Brown led the way for the Wolfpack, scoring 20 points and also dishing out 11 assists.
The Wolfpack had five players in double figures, including T.J. Warren coming off the bench and scoring 19 points.
The Tar Heels were down by 28 in the second half, but made a late run to make the game interesting. However, UNC was never able to climb totally out of the hole..
Reggie Bullock, who struggled from the field and scored only 10 points, summed up the game perfectly in his interview with the media on Friday.
"They (NCSU) definitely played with more heart," said Bullock. "I think the last eight, nine minutes of the game we really started playing our game."
"We should have started off the game like that," said Bullock. "We dug ourselves a deep hole that we couldn't climb out of. I hope my teammates don't let this slow us down. We have to play with a greater sense of urgency."
North Carolina will look to have a different outcome this time around with Leslie McDonald able to play and hopefully James Michael McAdoo avoiding foul trouble. Those two aspects hurt UNC in Raleigh a great deal.
NCSU head coach Mark Gottfried has made some recent changes too, as T.J. Warren is starting over Rodney Purvis.
And who could blame Gottfried, especially looking at Warren's last game against Florida State?
Warren had a team high 31 points, shooting 12 of 15 from the field, while also grabbing a team high in rebounds with 13.
With the starting lineup of Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, T.J. Warren, C.J. Leslie, and Richard Howell, Gottfried has tremendous length to his starting squad.
N.C. State now has four players that are 6-6 or taller in the lineup, with Brown not far behind at 6-5.
Will the Tar Heels be able to counter that length with speed and the spreading of the defense?
That is the question that will be answered on Saturday and will more than likely be the determining factor in the game in more than one aspect.
Williams answered the questions in Friday's press conference about rebounding the ball and N.C. State's length.
"We have been out-rebounded in two out of our last three but maybe all three, but it hasn't been a factor that has killed us," Williams said.
"Yeah, they have two big inside players that take the ball to the basket against big guys that are really going to take the ball to the basket against little guys, so it has to be something we are concerned about."
However, Williams did add that the Tar Heels might have to play a little bigger than usual.
"I really foresee the fact that we'll play two big guys together more."
So expect players such as Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert, Jackson Simmons, and Joel James (who has been cleared to play for the game) to step in and play some minutes.
James, as Williams indicated in Friday's press conference, has been cleared to play Saturday and has been practicing some with the Tar Heels this week.
There is no doubt that Williams has had to shake things up with the players he has, especially with the lack of offensive force down low as years past.
But that has never stopped him on how he wants to play and he is not ready to give up either.
"I'm not giving up on our big guys I can tell you that because they are going to get great opportunities until they put me in the ground," Williams said.
Looking at the matchup ahead, more than likely Hairston will be matching up with Leslie. Coach Williams indicated that the starting lineup would remain the same that it has been in recent outings, and Hairston gives the Tar Heels an athletic challenger to the All-ACC Leslie.
The length will come into play at some point, along with the athletic ability of Leslie, but the UNC players seem to think they might have a better time around against State with this line up.
"Yeah with a small lineup we have right now, I think we'll match up a little better (with State)," Bullock said.
"I see CJ (Leslie) more as a face up four than a back to the basket four man and with us sticking PJ at that position is strong enough to play down low. He is a guard but with the strength of a four man," Bullock continued.
The Tar Heels will look to spread the offense with the quicker guards that will be guarded by the Wolfpack frontcourt, but shots will have to fall this time around, especially from behind the arc.
Also, North Carolina can't allow N.C. State to beat them at its own game, especially in transition and fast break points, something that Williams has lived off for years now.
Everyone will see if the new-look Tar Heels are able to put on a better performance than they did in Raleigh, while maintaining Coach Williams' undefeated streak in the Smith Center against NCSU.
Whichever team is able to exploit the mismatches on the court better, will certainly have a better chance of coming away with a win.
Both teams need this win, not because of it just being a quality win, but a loss could certainly put a damper on seeding in the ACC Tournament and March Madness.
Right now these two teams are tied for third place in the ACC, and both will be looking for that all-important first round bye in Greensboro, which not only spares a superfluous game, but also virtually ensures a berth in the Big Dance for any ACC team that finishes in the top four in the regular season standings.
Williams certainly doesn't want to have to repeat that two word phrase again, especially in front of the home crowd, that he uttered in Raleigh.
If so, the Tar Heels could be in trouble with the season coming to an end soon.