UNC routs N.C. State
By PATRICK MASON
Thursday, February 16, 2017
RALEIGH -- Like a pinball, the N.C. State basketball team was battered by a pair of paddles in the form of North Carolina’s frontcourt.
The Tar Heels had their way inside. They scored with ease, played keep away on the glass and laid the foundation for another dominating win against the Wolfpack, this time by a final of 97-73 at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
“It was one of those things where we thought we would have an advantage inside,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Points in the paint was huge. We got out to a good start, they came back late, but then we went on a run and that margin was pretty difficult for them.”
UNC (22-5, 10-3 ACC) outscored the Wolfpack 60-22 in the paint, led by Kennedy Meeks’ 17, with forward Isaiah Hicks, starting for the injured Kenny Williams, adding seven. But the win soured postgame when Roy Williams said that Kenny Williams would likely be lost for the season due to a knee injury.
Coach Williams said it’s not an ACL injury, but that the sophomore’s right knee is signifigant enough to require surgery.
“He’ll have surgery early next week and will probably be out for the season,” Williams said. “(The timetable) is about 4-to-6 weeks, but when you look at that at this point in the season, 4-6 is basically the end of the season.”
UNC played well in his absence, and had five players finish in double figures. Theo Pinson, who missed significant time with several injuries of his own, scored 12 points in 24 minutes and proved effective around the basket.
This one had the making of another epic blowout for N.C. State against the Tar Heels. When the teams first met on Jan. 8, UNC’s 107-56 win was its largest ACC win in program history. And on Wednesday, the Heels opened up a 17-point lead just nine minutes into the game.
It wasn’t the start the Wolfpack envisioned. Coach Mark Gottfried was welcomed to a throng of boos as his name was announced, and the next few minutes wouldn’t go much better. They had hoped a rivalry game would help shake off a rough stretch in the season, but UNC pounced.
The Wolfpack did however came back to cut the deficit to 41-35 late in the second half with the help of a scoring surge from freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr., but it was short lived. UNC roared into halftime on a 10-2 run, all while holding N.C. State without a field goal in the final 3:20.
“For us to go on that run was big,” UNC’s Justin Jackson said. “Then they never really got back in it. And having Kenny out everyone came out with a whole lot of energy to get that win.”
Smith. scored a game-high 27 points and tried to keep his team in the game. He had 17 in the first half, and sparked that late run that brought the score within five. But even he couldn’t turn the game around as he didn’t have much help.
Maverick Rowan added 12 points, with Abdul-Malik Abu scoring 10. But the offense was stagnant. At times the offense came to a standstill, and Smith’s isolation plays were the only source of something positive. And with little help on the boards, a missed shot often turned into a UNC possession.
“Dennis was a key in the first half,” Williams said. “We had a difficult time with him, but we did a bit better with him in the second half.”