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    Top-Ranked Tar Heels Burn Wolfpack, 93-62
     
     

    BY TIM PEELER

    CHAPEL HILL, N.C. Five minutes into Saturday afternoon’s game at top-ranked North Carolina, the situation looked promising for NC State: The game was tied at 9-9 and speedy Tar Heel point guard Ty Lawson was on the bench getting his tender ankle checked out.

    But as soon as Lawson re-entered the game with 10:47 remaining in the first half, Carolina were off and running, and the Wolfpack couldn’t keep up. The 93-62 loss ended the Wolfpack’s seven-game winning streak.

    The undefeated Tar Heels (17-0 overall, 2-0 ACC) went on an epic scoring run, reeling off 25 unanswered points while the Wolfpack missed 18 consecutive shots. By the time the buzzer sounded for halftime, UNC had outscored the Pack 34-4 and were leading 43-13.

    The Wolfpack (11-4, 0-1) had trouble holding on to the ball, committing nine turnovers in the half, and no one could find a shooting range, as the team combined to shoot just 17.6 percent (6-for-34) from the field. Most disturbing was the Pack players couldn’t hit their closest shots, making just three of its 21 shots in the paint.

    Senior Gavin Grant missed all seven of his shots before halftime, freshman J.J. Hickson was 2-for-9 and junior Ben McCauley was 2-for-7.

    “It seemed like there was a lid on that hoop,” said McCauley. “We were missing layups. Not shots, layups. That’s unfortunate, because we know we have guys who can make those shots. I am kind of at a loss for words, because I just didn’t see that coming.”

    The Pack’s biggest problem, McCauley said, was losing its patience and trying to run with the Tar Heels once Lawson re-entered the game.

    “That’s not our pedigree,” he said. “When we slow things down and run our sets, we are a great basketball team. We didn’t do that today.”

    Meanwhile, the Tar Heels sizzled behind the scoring of All-America center Tyler Hansbrough and sophomore Deon Thompson, who combined for 19 first-half points. Lawson played most of the rest of the game, tying Thompson for team honors with 16 points.

    Nothing seemed to go right for Sidney Lowe’s team, which missed all six of its first-half 3-point attempts and was out-rebounded 31-17 in its ACC opener.

    So no matter how much things changed in the second half and the Wolfpack did score nearly four times as many points as it did in the opening half, thanks to a handful of 3-pointers by junior Courtney Fells and an offensive awakening by Hickson the hole State dug for itself was deep enough to hit the subterranean water table even during the region’s worst drought in 100 years.

    “We did learn from it,” said Fells, who was in the starting lineup despite missing much of the second half of Wednesday’s victory over North Carolina Central with a high ankle sprain. “We learned we just need to put the ball in the hole. In the second half, I thought we showed heart and character, and I liked that.

    “We just need to keep staying behind each other.”

    Fells led the team in scoring with 16, followed by Hickson with 14. The Tar Heels had five players in double-figures, including Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green with 13 points apiece.

    Now, Lowe and his team will have to regroup in time for its trip Tuesday night to Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum. That game is slated to tip-off at 7 p.m. The Wolfpack returns to the RBC Center next Saturday to face Miami at 8 p.m.

    Lowe hopes his team learned a couple of valuable lessons in the 31-point defeat.

    “This is what it is going to be like,” Lowe said. “This is how the conference is going to be played. I don’t know about building on what we did in the second half, but understand that this is the environment we are going to be in and we are going to have to execute. We have to play good basketball to win on the road or at home.

    “These types of environments exist in our conference and we have to be ready to play. We have to do the right things at the start and be patient, and not so excited that we break away or try to do everything ourselves.”

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

     


     

     

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