The rivalry game between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the North Carolina State Wolfpack lived up to expectations in yesterday’s clash at Raleigh, and N.C. State was finally able to prevail 91-83 in a game that was closer than the scoreline suggests due to a second-half charge by the Tar Heels. It’s just that N.C. State was able to pull away late, and this was a game that Wolfpack needed to win after an embarrassing loss to another in-state rival in the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. I mean, that second-half meltdown was just awful.
Before the season started, UNC senior guard Dexter Strickland made the headlines after calling the Wolfpack the least of UNC’s worries. The reason why that was surprising is because NCSU is significantly better this season, and they were the pre-season favorites to win the ACC (well above the Tar Heels, at that).
. Strickland said after the loss, They’re a good team. I’ll give them that. But we made a lot of mistakes that led to them looking like we were out there for no reason. We need to get better in different areas of the game.”
It sounds like Strickland isn’t willing to give too much credit to the Pack, and he is right that North Carolina did play sloppy and made awful mistakes in the first-half that put them in a hole that was simply too difficult to climb out of. You simply cannot lose by 28 points at one point and expect to win, and it would have been embarrassing had top 25 N.C. State lost to their rivals at home with a 28-point lead at one point. However, there was some fear from N.C. State fans that it could happen given the way this team played in the second-half.
However, Lorenzo Brown and the leaders on the Pack brought it together and separated themselves from UNC in the final minute to net the crucial home victory for NCSU. A loss for the Wolfpack would have not only been embarrassing, but it would have also had them slammed out of the top 25 (the loss to Wake Forest is the main reason here) and in a significantly worse spot in the conference picture.
But N.C. State prevailed, and UNC players like Strickland and head coach Roy Williams are kicking themselves for being down big early on. Even so, give credit to this Tar Heels team for climbing out of the deficit in a hostile environment with a freshman point guard at the helm going up against one of the best floor generals in college basketball.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.