Balanced Tar Heels Down NC State, 81-71
Feb. 22, 2005
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C. - NC State wasn't bad on Tuesday night, but `wasn't bad' isn't good enough when the opponent happens to be North Carolina. Even without leading scorer Rashad McCants, who missed the game with a stomach virus, the 2nd ranked Tar Heels still had five double-figure scorers in an 81-71 victory over the Wolfpack before a sellout crowd of 19,722 at the RBC Center. Nobody in light blue was better than flashy point guard Raymond Felton, who paced the Tar Heels (23-3, 11-2) with 21 points, seven assists and zero turnovers in 38 minutes.
But Felton was hardly a one-man band. Senior forward Jawad Williams had 15 points, while center Sean May and freshman Marvin Williams added 14 points apiece. With a game-high 12 rebounds, May also carved out his fifth straight double-double.
The unsung hero for Carolina, however, was Melvin Scott. In the midst of a deep shooting slump, the senior guard delivered when given the opportunity to start in place of McCants. Scott, who had missed his last eight 3-point shots coming into the game, scored 12 points on four 3-point shots, three of which came in the first half. Scott's last 3 in the opening 20 minutes came right before the horn to give UNC a 38-33 advantage at the break.
"He was really big," said Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek. "I thought his shooting was a key to them having a five-point lead at halftime. Right before the half we had a pretty good, aggressive rotation and he just nailed it. We did not do a good job of defending the 3 tonight. That part of the game did hurt us."
Once again showing its tremendous inside-outside balance, Carolina knocked down 10-of-21 from the 3-point line, including a few backbreakers in the second half that really held NC State at arm's length.
Down 49-39 with 13:17 left, the Wolfpack (15-11, 5-8) got eight straight points from freshman forward Andrew Brackman during an 11-4 run that cut UNC's advantage down to three points at 53-50 with 10:38 remaining.
But with the crowd roaring its approval and NC State riding a surge of momentum, the Tar Heels made some big time plays to stretch the lead back out again. Felton started it with a 3-point shot that came after one of May's four offensive rebounds. About a minute later, Carolina got another offensive rebound that led to second shot from the arc. This time it was Scott's rebound that led to a Jawad Williams 3-pointer that put the Heels up 61-50 with 8:59 left. More than a minute later, Felton drained another 3 to make it 64-52.
"[The offensive rebounds] were huge," Sendek said. "We certainly identified the margin for error that we had and certainly could ill afford to give them those types of opportunities. They're challenging enough to stop the first time. You give them two cracks at it, you really put yourself in a tough position. We just weren't at the level consistently enough tonight in order to get the job done. We were good enough in stretches to be competitive, but not at a high enough level to knock North Carolina off."
Following Felton's final 3-pointer, NC State kept battling, but was never able to get closer than seven the rest of the way. And although the game was played at the relatively moderate pace the Wolfpack preferred, North Carolina's overall offensive efficiency was ultimately too much to overcome.
Along with their long-range shooting, the Tar Heels hit 49 percent (26-of-53) for the game, and 50 percent (13-of-26) in the second half. Carolina also nailed 19-of-23 shots from the free throw line.
"We feel very fortunate to win," said UNC coach Roy Williams. "It was one of those games that you would probably classify as a tough game, but not a pretty game. We thought we got some great performances from some guys trying to make up for Rashad not being there. Melvin hadn't started a game the whole season, and to make four 3s for us was big. I thought the key point in the game was when it was 53-50 and we make two 3s in a row."
On what was an unusual night for him personally, Julius Hodge led NC State with 20 points. Normally known for his strong finishes at the basket, Hodge missed a handful of shots in close, but made up for it by hitting 4-of-5 from the 3-point line. The Pack also got 14 points from Engin Atsur and 13 from center Jordan Collins.
Overall, NC State knocked down 45.3 percent (24-of-53) of its shots, but lost the rebounding battle 33-23. UNC had 12 offensive boards compared to only seven for the Pack.
"It was definitely really big to give up offensive rebounds but then on top of that to give up 3-pointers," said Hodge, who was 7-of-16 from the floor. "That's not easy to swallow. But we can't dwell on it now. Tonight's game is over and we have to prepare for Virginia Tech."
The Hokies, who edged the Wolfpack by a point last month in Blacksburg, will come to Raleigh for a 4:00 game on Saturday afternoon.