by Sharon Thorsland
It’s a big game in Chapel Hill this weekend, as North Carolina takes on NC State at the Dean Dome. Tip-off is set for 5:00 on WBT. The Tar Heels (13-6, 5-3 ACC) beat Boston College on Tuesday and are starting to click again, winning 8 of their last 10 games. The Wolfpack is riding a four game winning streak that includes upsets of ranked Miami and Duke teams. They’re currently 15-4 overall and 5-3 in the conference.
The Wolfpack is led by a trio of guards including star sophomore Terquavion Smith. The ACC Player of the Year candidate is averaging over 19 points per game. He’s a bit of a ball hog, ranking 4th in the nation in field goal attempts and 50th in field goals made. Grad transfer Jarkel Joiner (16.2) and Casey Morsell (12.9) combine with Smith to make up over 60 percent of State’s scoring. They also do a good job taking care of the ball, the Pack is averaging just 10.6 turnovers per game and rank 9th in the nation with a turnover rate of just 14.6 percent. Look for the Tar Heels to turn up the pressure on the perimeter, with Leaky Black likely drawing the assignment of guarding Smith. State does a good job of forcing turnovers so it will be crucial for Caleb Love and RJ Davis to play smart basketball.
Woflpack big man DJ Burns is averaging over 9 points a game, but the senior has been prone to getting into foul trouble and will have his hands full facing Heels center Armando Bacot, who continues to lead the ACC in rebounding. The Heels have a definite size advantage down low, so look for them to run the offense through Bacot, Pete Nance and Jalen Washington (if he’s back from an ankle injury).
This has been a one-sided rivalry for years now, the Tar Heels are 39-9 versus their rival over the last 48 games. The last time the Wolfpack won in Chapel Hill was in 2018, a 95-91 overtime thriller over the then-10th ranked Heels. This is the best chance State has had in years to knock off UNC – but I don’t see it happening unless the Wolfpack plays a near perfect game. Look for UNC to continue its dominance over State and remain perfect at home this season. Go Tar Heels!