By the time the clock hit triple zeroes during the initial meeting on the hardwood between UNC and NC State this season, the scoreboard painted a perfect picture of what had just happened.
The Tar Heels thoroughly dominated the Wolfpack at the Smith Center back in January to the tune of a 51-point victory that ranks among the largest in ACC history.
As UNC (21-5, 9-3 ACC) prepares to face NC State Wednesday night at PNC Arena, its focus is on forgetting the past–knowing that type of performance is just about impossible to recreate.
“That’s the biggest thing I’ve been thinking about,” Tar Heel point guard Joel Berry said at the team’s press conference on Tuesday. “How are we going to play after beating them by 51 points [in Chapel Hill]?
“We just have to go in and play it as just another game,” he continued. “We can’t think about the last game, because I know they’re thinking about it as well. And they’re preparing as if, ‘We’re not gonna let them come out, especially in our place, and beat us like that.'”
The Wolfpack (14-12, 3-10 ACC) currently sit just one game ahead of Boston College at the very bottom of the conference standings, as they remain stuck on a five-game losing skid.
Head coach Mark Gottfried has come under fire for his team’s lackluster performance as of late, but NC State does have something UNC doesn’t this season–a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Led by a potential NBA lottery pick in freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr., the Wolfpack did what the Tar Heels couldn’t do against Duke. They closed out, and made big plays down the stretch.
But that’s what makes this NC State team so polarizing. There’s plenty of talent to go around, however it hasn’t manifested itself in the form of victories–creating a majority of the criticism that Gottfried has had to face.
The narrative around the Wolfpack could change quite a bit, though, if they’re able to pull off the upset on Wednesday.
UNC is still awaiting word from its training staff about whether senior forward Isaiah Hicks will be available to play, while the Tar Heels as a team haven’t had much practice time since losing to Duke last week.
The Tar Heels have also had a number of issues defensively, which could provide NC State with the opening it needs in order to steal a victory and earn back some credibility.
“We realize the game got out of hand here [at the Dean Dome],” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters. “They’ll be more enthused, they’ll be fired up and they’ll be able to make some amends for some of the other things that have happened.
“Some of their other losses can be balanced out by one game,” the coach continued. “If it’s us.”