Quick hits and notes from NC State's 77-63 loss to North Carolina in front of 19,700 fans at the RBC Center Tuesday night.
Play of the game
It would be the final play of the decisive run for UNC. Carolina senior power forward Deon Thompson stole a pass from NC State junior point guard Javier Gonzalez and then coasted to the other end of the court where he emphatically dunked over Wolfpack defenders, giving UNC a 51-43 lead. Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe immediately called timeout with 10:01 left in the game, but the damage had been done. Thompson's dunk ended a 13-0 UNC run over 5:54 that turned NC State's 43-38 lead into a deficit the Pack never threatened to rally from.
Player of the game
Thompson deserves major kudos for the Heels. He set the tone early with a three-point play for the game's first points, and Thompson finished with a team-high 20 points. However, our choice for player of the game was UNC sophomore point guard Larry Drew II.
Drew has been under heavy fire from UNC fans over his unsteady play this season, but Lowe singled him out after the game for being a huge factor in the game. Drew tied a career-high with 18 points to go with a game-high seven assists and just one turnover. That was just the third time this year Drew had just one turnover in a contest, and it comes after he had committed 14 turnovers in the prior three contests, all UNC losses. Drew made 5 of 9 shots, including 2 of 5 three-pointers, and 6 of 7 free throws in the game.
Are they tired?
For the second straight game, NC State had a nightmarish second half shooting the basketball. Against Maryland the Pack was just 10 of 36 in the final session for 27.8 percent. Believe it or not, State was on pace to go even lower than that against UNC. The Pack made just 4 of 23 shots during the first 16 minutes of the second half. That's 17.4 percent. The number rose when State made five of their last eight attempts, improving the Pack's second half shooting numbers to 9 of 31 overall and 29.0 percent.
After the Pack went up 43-38 with 17:04 left on a put back by Gonzalez, UNC head coach Roy Williams called a timeout with 16:57 to go in the game. NC State would miss its next 12 shots and turn it over four times before scoring again on a lay-up by junior power forward Tracy Smith with 8:50 left in the contest, cutting UNC's lead to 51-45.
The Pack was particularly hurt by not getting scoring from three of their five starters. Smith finished with 20 points on 9-of-15 shooting, but eight of those points came in the final four minutes when the game had been decided.
Gonzalez actually carried NC State to its five point lead, scoring 15 points in less than five minutes during a stretch that started at the end of the first half and carried over into the second. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting, making 3 of 4 three-pointers.
For Gonzalez, who was so distraught after the game that he went straight to the locker room rather than go through the handshake line, his 19 points matched a career-high.
Take out Smith and Gonzalez and the rest of the team made just 8 of 33 shots, or 24.2 percent. The starting threesome of freshman wing Scott Wood, fifth-year senior guard Farnold Degand and senior forward Dennis Horner were a combined 5-of-24 shooting, 4 of 17 from long range.
After going 19 games without allowing the opposition to shoot 50.0 percent from the field, the Pack has let their last two opponents shoot above that. Maryland made 53.7 percent of their shots, while UNC connected on 50.9 percent, making an impressive 15 of 26 shots in the second half for 57.7 percent.
What was particularly disturbing for NC State fans was how well the Tar Heels handled the basketball. UNC had just 10 turnovers, their second fewest of the year. Coming into Tuesday's game UNC had the highest turnovers per game average in the ACC at 16.5.
The only negative for UNC's performance was a poor 13 of 22 effort at the free throw line. Carolina dominated on the board 39-30 including 11-8 on the offensive glass despite shooting markedly better than State and thus having less chances to grab offensive rebounds.
Spotted at the game
Class of 2010 commitment Luke Cothron, a forward at Flora MacDonald in Red Springs, N.C., and top senior class target C.J. Leslie, a forward at Word of God Academy in Raleigh, were both at the game behind NC State's bench. The crowd chanted Leslie's name upon his arrival.
NC State honored former point guard Chris Corchiani at halftime. Assistant coach Larry Harris' son and former Wolfpack player Simon Harris was also spotted at the game.
Before the game the Pack also brought out the old noise meter from Reynolds Coliseum. The crowd successfully got the meter to reach the top level.
As expected, there were plenty of signs around letting UNC know just how the Wolfpack faithful thought of them. The most popular target was Williams and his decision to have a fan thrown out of the Dean Dome earlier this season for allegedly taunting Thompson while he was shooting a free throw.
What the loss means
NC State falls to 13-8 overall and 2-5 in the ACC, just a half a game ahead of Miami for last place. UNC improved to 13-7 and 2-3 in the ACC, avoiding a four-game losing streak that would have been the longest in seven years when Matt Doherty was patrolling the sidelines.
UNC now holds a 141-75 overall lead in the series with State and is 17-5 in the last 22 meetings. The Heels currently enjoy a seven-game winning streak against the Pack and is an impressive 8-3 at the RBC Center.
The Pack will host North Carolina Central Saturday afternoon while UNC will host Virginia Sunday evening.
Other stats of note
• UNC held a 36-30 edge in points in the paint.
• Both teams committed just 10 turnovers, and both teams had 12 points off turnovers.
• UNC had a decisive 14-8 edge in second-chance points and 19-7 advantage in fast break points.
• Carolina's bench outscored State's reserves 21-8.