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January 31, 2011

Quick hits from NC State's loss to UNC

Quick hits and notes from North Carolina's 84-64 rout over NC State in front of 21,750 fans at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday afternoon.

Play of the game

The rout was on from the very first play of the game. UNC freshman wing Harrison Barnes, who had been struggling with his confidence throughout the season, calmly drained a step-back three-pointer from the right corner a minute into the game, giving the Heels a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately for NC State, that is as close as they would be all game. Barnes used that three-pointer to catapult himself into the best game of his young career.

Highlight of the game

NC State had a tough time containing UNC sophomore forward John Henson on both sides of the court around the basket. NC State sophomore center DeShawn Painter can testify to that after he was posterized on a Henson dunk with 16:14 to go in the game, giving the Heels a 43-29 lead.

Player of the game

Barnes, a preseason All-American selection despite not even being preseason first-team All-ACC, has failed to live up to his lofty expectations this year. He was averaging 11.8 points per game in his first 19 contests, good for a rookie but not for one that was expected to be an instant star.

Barnes though looked like a top-rated recruit Saturday. He scored 12 of UNC's first 24 points and torched State for a career-high 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field, including 3 of 7 from three-point range. He also had six rebounds. The UNC fans gave Barnes a standing ovation when he left the game with 3:50 remaining, and even sophomore guard Dexter Strickland, who was at the line to shoot a free throw, stepped back to applaud.

Honorable mention goes to Henson, who used his long arms to corral 16 rebounds, one off his career high, and matched a career-high with seven blocked shots. Henson also added 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting for his sixth career double-double and the fifth of this season.

Ugly first half

NC State made just 7 of 30 first half shots for 23.3 percent, was just 1 of 5 on three-point shots and made just 6 of 10 free throws. Unfortunately for the Pack, such a cold shooting first half has not been an aberration in ACC play. This was the fourth time in seven games that the Pack has shot less than 30 percent in a half, and it was the fifth time this year they have achieved such a dubious shooting mark. Overall Saturday's first half was the second worst shooting half of the year for State behind a 21.6 percent effort in the first half against Duke in the RBC Center Jan. 19.

What was an aberration though was the rebounding in the first half. NC State was outrebounded by a staggering 34-18 mark in the first half. Carolina rebounded 14 of their 23 misses and had 13 second-chance points, the difference in a 34-21 halftime lead for the Heels. Henson led the way with 11 first half rebounds.

The Pack had been a fairly solid rebounding team until recently. State outrebounded 12 of their first 17 opponents, but NC State has not won the rebounding battle in the last four contests. UNC outrebounded the Pack 53-39 in the final box score, 20-14 on the offensive glass and had an 18-6 second chance points advantage. That was NC State's most lopsided negative-rebounding margin of the year.

Because of the poor shooting and rebounding, Saturday was the third time this year that NC State did not lead or tie once in a game. They trailed from start to finish in losses at Florida State and at home to Duke.

No stops in the second half

NC State, despite all its problems in the first half, was still down just 34-21 at halftime. Defense though became an issue in the second half. UNC scored on 13 of its first 18 possessions, significant because NC State's offense was much improved in the second half. The Pack themselves scored nine of their first 14 possessions of the second half, but during that stretch UNC scored on nine of its 13 possessions, and the lead was 52-38 for the Heels with 13:05 to go.

Only four times in the second half did NC State score more than two unanswered points. The Heels scored 50 points after halftime and shot 19 of 33 for 57.6 percent. Second half defense has been a bit of an issue for the Wolfpack this year in ACC play. UNC is the third conference team this year to score at least 50 points in the second half, joining Florida State (56) and Duke (50). In addition, Boston College scored 47 points in the second half.

UNC's 84 points were the most in a conference game this year for the Heels, besting their previous high of 75 against Clemson.

At least one player showed up

While most recruiting analysts had freshman guard Lorenzo Brown ranked the lowest in NC State's three-player recruiting class, some close to the program behind the scenes felt like Brown may actually have been the best player in the group. He showed why some felt that way by playing easily his best game for NC State.

Brown set career-highs with 20 points and seven assists, and added four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in 31 minutes and had just two turnovers while playing many minutes at the point guard position since starter Ryan Harrow, a fellow freshman, missed the game with an illness. Brown made 8 of 16 shots and 1 of 2 three-pointers. He scored 18 points after halftime.

What the loss means

NC State drops to 12-9 on the year and 2-5 in the ACC. UNC improved to 15-5 and 5-1 in the ACC. UNC leads the overall series against NC State 143-75, and Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams is now 15-1 against the Pack while at UNC and 20-1 for his career spanning back to his days at Kansas. Carolina is 70-22 in games played in Chapel Hill and has won eight straight in the Smith Center. UNC also has a nine game winning streak against NC State.

NC State went 4-5 in the month of January. The first month of the year has not been kind to Sidney Lowe coached teams at NC State. The Pack has had losing records in January in four out of Lowe's five years in Raleigh, and the one non-losing record was a 4-4 mark in 2008 that included wins over Presbyterian and North Carolina Central.

After this weekend's games, NC State is tied with Virginia for ninth in the ACC, one game ahead of the duo of Miami and Wake Forest. UNC is alone in second place in the conference, a half game behind in the win column to conference leader Duke. NC State hosts Virginia Tech (14-6, 4-3 in the ACC) Wednesday night while UNC is at Boston College (14-7, 4-3 ACC) Tuesday night.

Other stats of note

- UNC outscored NC State 44-36 in the paint.
- Both teams had 12 points off turnovers. NC State had 18 turnovers, one off its season-high, while the Heels had 15 turnovers.
- UNC had a 10-2 edge in fast break points.


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