In a narrow escape, the No. 12 North Carolina’s women basketball team defeated North Carolina State ,67-63, in Reynolds Coliseum Thursday evening. The Tar Heels are now 4-2 in the ACC and 17-3 overall. With the loss, N.C. State fell even to 3-3 in the conference with a 12-7 record.
The start of the game was sluggish for both teams. Carolina committed 3 turnovers in its first few possessions and did not score a field goal until almost four minutes into the game. Both UNC and N.C. State were shooting well below 30 percent from the field.
Unlike the teams’ first meeting in Chapel Hill on Jan. 4, the Tar Heels never made a solid run to gain any hope of clinching a blowout. In fact, N.C. State ran up the score on them, leading by as many as 13, but the Wolfpack ended the first half with a 26-21 edge thanks to poor shooting from the Tar Heels.
“We kept battling hard, so I was happy we were only down by five at halftime,” UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “But State played really smart and they played well but we had a time out and I challenged the seniors – I have three seniors. And I just said ‘alright you three seniors, this is your team.’ And they went back out there and then man, all of a sudden we got a couple of steals off defensive pressure and it gave us some momentum that we needed.”
Coming out of the halftime break, UNC turned up the intensity on its defense and broke out into a trap that allowed them three steals and two easy buckets for Latifah Coleman and Stephanie Mavunga.
And in the final minutes of fouls and free throws, senior Brittany Rountree sealed the win for UNC, going 8-8 from behind the line in the last 30 seconds. Her 9 points came from free throws alone.
“The free throws, we do a lot of those in practice,” Rountree said. “Coach (Andrew) Calder and Coach Hatchell challenge us so I mean, it just comes with practice. It’s something that I’m used to and my teammates and coaches depend on me so I don’t let them down. I kind of like being in those situations, especially silencing the crowd.”
N.C. State’s offense was led by Len’Nique Brown with 21 points and Dominique Wilson with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jennifer Mathurin, a 6’1” forward, posed as a double threat to Carolina as a big presence in the post and a scorer from outside. Mathurin shot 3-7 from the three point line.
Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore maintains hopes of keeping an NCAA tournament berth a realistic goal for his team, but he says he knows they’re running out of time.
“The thing about this league is it’s probably the strongest in the country,” Coach Moore said. “If you can get some signature wins, you still have a chance. We’re 3-3, but again we don’t have a signature win or two that we need and we’ve got to find a way to get that.”
The Tar Heels will continue to be that signature team to beat for the remainder of the season. Next up for UNC comes a home court showdown against another rival this weekend. No. 15 Duke, who is now 13-6 on the season and 4-2 in the ACC, travels to Carmichael Sunday at 5 p.m.
For Roy Williams, the pain probably started not long after the buzzer sounded last Saturday afternoon. Marcus Paige had just nailed a gutsy left-handed scoop shot with eight seconds to play to knock off fourth- ranked Louisville when all of a sudden, in a phenomenon that occurs twice each year, his head coach felt a sharp, burning sensation in his gut. Roy said nothing after the game, keeping all complaints to himself, but I knew what was wrong.
For the four nights after the big win, I had a hunch that Coach Williams would not be able to eat.
He’s mentioned the condition before. In 2008, after Tyler Hansbrough and the Tar Heels crushed the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill, Roy told the media that he’d “rather not eat than lose to NC State,” and that he informed Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and the rest of his team that “they weren’t eating postgame unless they beat NC State.”
In this year’s first meet-up between the long-time rivals Wednesday night, Marcus Paige gave coach Williams his 23rd victory in 25 tries since taking the job at North Carolina, with a masterful performance – scoring 23 points, dishing out nine assists and also failing to record a single turnover.
For Roy, it must have also felt like Paige fed him a win with an extra side of chili-cheese fries, because you know he was hungry for this one.
That’s why I feel safe saying that it was Roy Williams’ stomach that was actually the most relieved Tar Heel inside PNC Arena when State’s freshman forward Cody Martin missed long on his tip-in attempt that would have sent the game to overtime, giving the Heels an 81-79 victory in rival territory.
For the majority of Carolina fans, Duke is seen as UNC’s most hated rival, and the games between the two schools are some of the most intense in all of sports (professional or college). State basketball is often dismissed and treated like the red-headed stepchild, with the main insult being that it’s not even a “true rivalry” anymore due to the Tar Heels’ 31-6 record against the Pack since Dean Smith retired.
Roy Williams isn’t the majority of fans. He has no problem showing that emotion-filled “H-word” for the team in Raleigh. That isn’t a mystery. The mystery is why? When that strong emotional energy could be put towards Coach K’s Durham Empire, what could possibly fuel all this hate for State?
I decided it was necessary to bring out my magnifying glass, and go searching for answers. During my quest, I was led to five possible reasons that Roy’s stomach churns at the sight of the color red.
Let’s take a look at the findings of the investigation, which we can call the “Roy-State Report.”
Although it can be easily argued that the “Roy-State Report” findings were somewhat inconclusive, they should at least help to answer why Wanda Williams, Roy’s wife, will most likely only need to cook dinner for one next month during the week of February 24th, when the Wolfpack return to Chapel Hill.
Those pains will be back, and again, it could be up to Marcus Paige to feed his coach.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/five-reasons-behind-roys-hate-state/
With the loss, the Wolfpack dropped to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in league play.
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N.C. State got into foul trouble midway through the second half, and sophomore forward Beejay Anya ultimately fouled out with 6:58 to play. Senior guard Ralston Turner fouled out with just 3 ticks left in the contest.
Meanwhile, UNC took full advantage with crisp passing and sharp shooting to pull away from their rivals and establish a double-digit lead. But the Wolfpack didn’t give up, fighting their way back to within a whisker of victory.
Junior point guard Marcus Paige, not surprisingly, turned in a sharp performance at a venue he enjoys, finishing with 23 points on 7-13 shooting.
“Honestly, it’s a fun environment,” Paige says. “It’s kind of like an us-against-the-world mentality when we come in here. And that’s a fun way to play.”
UNC head coach Roy Williams was full of praise for Paige’s play following the game.
“I’d like for him to be 6-3, 220, but he’s not that,” Coach Williams says. “What he is is 165 pounds to 175 — and most of it’s heart.”
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
But it was sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks who surprised most, tallying 12 points and only missing one shot from the field. Hicks seemed to set the tone with his emphatic play in the paint.
Turner and junior guard Trevor Lacey led the N.C. State scoring charge with 20 and 19 points respectively. The Wolfpack also outrebounded the Tar Heels, 37-33, with scrappy effort and want-to, but it wasn’t enough to emerge victorious on this occasion.
Coach Williams continued his dominance over N.C. State, improving his career head-to-head record to 28-2 against the Wolfpack.
“I didn’t think in the first half we had the movement, the quickness,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried says. “We just seemed to be going slow motion in my mind. The second half we came out and played basketball. … But we didn’t do it for 40 minutes. We did it for 20 minutes.”
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Meeks opened the scoring proceedings with a smooth jumper to get the Tar Heels on the board first in their opening possession.
Abdul-Malik Abu got the Wolfpack’s first points, but it was UNC who got off to a sharp start, spurting out to a 6-2 lead with 16:37 on the first half clock.
But Turner answered for the home team, draining the next two buckets to knot up the game at 8 points apiece.
With 11:40 to play, the Wolfpack earned their first lead of the contest, 13-12, thanks to the hot-shooting of Turner.
UNC used some of its size to draw a second foul on Turner and send the sharp-shooter to the bench briefly. Efficient passing for both teams paced the offenses, and with 7:26 before halftime, N.C. State held a slim 17-16 edge.
Hicks finished the first half with a flourish, converting on every shot he took. The Tar Heels, who made nine of their last 11 attempts from the field, trotted into the locker room with a 32-26 lead.
Both squads came out of halftime on fire, knocking down shots inside and outside with ease, picking apart the opposing defenses.
Promising N.C. State sophomore Kyle Washington made his presence felt and Turner did his part to get the crowd into it early in the final 20 minutes of play. With 15:07 to play, the Tar Heels maintained a 45-38 advantage.
Paige continued to work his way into space, converting on crucial long-range jumpers to stave off the Wolfpack surge and keep UNC ahead 52-48 with 11:41 remaining.
In a bad development for N.C. State, Turner picked up his fourth foul at the 10:05 mark in the second half, promptly taking a seat on the bench.
Back-to-back three-point plays from Justin Jackson and J.P Tokoto helped reestablish a solid lead for the Tar Heels at 62-52.
And with 4:35 to play, Paige nailed down a wide open three to extend UNC’s lead to 71-60 and ultimately seal the road win, despite a furious Wolfpack rally that had N.C. State within three points with under a minute to play. PNC Arena was rocking right to the finish.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a Sunday evening meeting with lowly Virginia Tech for a 6:30 p.m. tip in the Smith Center.
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 12-4 overall and 2-1 in the ACC, hits the road Wednesday night for a 7 p.m. tipoff in PNC Arena against the N.C. State Wolfpack, 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the ACC.
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Coming off an upset over No. 4 Duke Sunday, the Wolfpack will be confident they can make it two in a row, this time against the hated Tar Heels.
The Wolfpack had everything clicking in their 87-75 victory over the Blue Devils last weekend.
The performance merited high praise from UNC head coach Roy Williams.
“I think they handled Duke’s pressure really well. That was about as impressive a show as you’ve seen in quite a while. They had Duke by 19. […] I think they were just on the top of their game,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels should expect another solid outing from the Wolfpack when the two rivals face off in a vital ACC meeting. Both squads find themselves near the top of the league standings and another marquee win for N.C. State would do wonders for its NCAA Tournament resume.
Last season, the two schools authored a classic chapter in their long-standing hardwood rivalry that stands at 150-76 in favor of Carolina.
Former Wolfpack star T.J. Warren went head-to-head down the stretch with UNC junior Marcus Paige before the Tar Heels were able to pull out the thrilling overtime win, 85-84, in Raleigh.
But this season, N.C. State is without Warren and Paige hasn’t been producing at the same level.
Coach Williams says the difference now is the ‘tough little nut’, as he commonly refers to Paige, is being zeroed in on by opposing defenses.
“He’s gotten so much more attention than he did at least the first half of last year. Maybe it was halfway through the season before he started to get all that attention. He’s got all the defensive attention from the first game this year. Perhaps that has something to do with it. He’s been a really good player, but when the other team’s defense is aimed at you, it’s really hard,” Coach Williams says.
With the pieces seemingly coming together for the men in red, N.C. State’s offense is much more dynamic. And although Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner do most of the heavy lifting, sophomore forward Kyle Washington may be the X-factor.
Coach Gotttfried says Washington’s growth has been integral to the Wolfpack success this season.
“I think you said it right. He has no fear. He’s aggressive offensively. I think he did a great job rebounding the ball. A lot of those rebounds were in traffic – tough rebounds that we needed him to get. We need scoring, and we need scoring from those guys inside. Kyle stepped up and played with a lot of confidence,” Coach Gottfried says.
A healthy Marcus Paige will be key for the Tar Heels’ chances. So how is Paige feeling after a nasty rolled ankle last weekend against Louisville?
He says he’s ready to go and will fight through the pain, if necessary.
“I think yesterday [Monday] and today [Tuesday] are the best it’s felt in the last two weeks. It’s on the upswing. Games usually make it hurt a lot more the next day. We’ll see how it holds up after tomorrow [Wednesday], but going into tomorrow, it feels pretty good,” Paige says.
Although Coach Gottfried recognizes the wealth of talent on the UNC roster, he says his guys will be concentrating most of their attention on Paige.
“I think Paige is a great player. I think North Carolina is a tremendously talented roster from one-ten. They’ve got a lot of really good players. But I do think it starts with Paige. He’s the guy that makes them go. We’ve got to do a great job on him,” Coach Gottfried says.
As usual on the road in the brutal ACC, the Tar Heels will be playing in an unfriendly venue.
Coach Williams says he’ll be using some mind tricks Wednesday night to help his players cope with the hostile environment that awaits them.
“It will be hostile, there’s no question about that. It will be unique, interesting, but hostile will fit too. We haven’t talked about it, but we’ll tell them it’s a great road game, a great opportunity, and we got to pretend they’re yelling for us,” Coach Williams says.
Although it’s Carolina who has dominated the series lately, winning 16 of the last 17 games, the 227th installment in this heated in-state rivalry promises to be compelling entertainment.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/no-15-tar-heels-face-hungry-wolfpack-hostile-pnc-arena/
Stephanie Mavunga continued her string of dynamic games as the No. 9 UNC women’s basketball team defeated rival North Carolina State in their ACC opener Sunday afternoon, 72-56, at Carmichael Arena. The Tar Heels now boast a 14-1 record with the win and the Wolfpack have fallen to 9-5.
With the absence of junior forward and All-ACC preseason selection Xylina McDaniel, UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell was concerned she had lost some fire in her front court.
“(Later in the season) you’ll probably see us do some different things because we’re still adjusting to Xylina not being out there. Just her physical presence, she’s strong and defensively she’s pretty tough out there so we’re still adjusting.”
However, since McDaniel’s unfortunate and likely season-ending lower leg injury, Mavunga has quickly stepped in place to boast career-high stats in the past two games, with a little help from her partner in the post.
“In the game two days ago, Xylina said to me ‘I’m watching you, I’m watching you more than anybody else.’ And I just froze. So she gets on me when I’m frustrated and she gives me pointers on things she sees in my game that I may not see. Even just helping me with moves, she’s a phenomenal post player. An All-American type player so I listen to her – she knows what she’s talking about.”
McDaniel’s tips have proven to pay off so far. In last game’s blowout victory over East Tennessee State, Mavunga posted a career-high 26 points on nearly perfect shooting from the floor with 93 percent accuracy. And against the Wolfpack, she was still rolling. Mavunga finished with a full stat line – 23 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and a career-high 5 assists.
UNC was assisted on the scoring boards by impressive performances by both Allisha Gray with 13 points and 12 rebounds, her 4th double-double of the season as well as senior Brittany Rountree, who netted 14 points on 4-6 three point shooting.
The Wolfpack suffered from foul trouble early in the first half, but continued to play a gritty match that slowed UNC’s ability to stretch their lead. After three fouls and only two points in the first 20 minutes of play, NC State redshirt sophomore Domonique Wilson came back to score 13 points in the second half alone. Sophomore Miah Spencer and senior Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin each added 11 for the Pack.
NC State head coach Wes Moore says Sunday’s loss gives his team a taste of what to expect from the ACC’s list of heavy-hitting women’s basketball teams this season. In the match, North Carolina led by as many as 27 points.
“We’ll have to combat (them) with a competitive fire,” Moore said. “I hate to say this but I grew up in Texas, and we say down there it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. We’re just going to have to compete, maybe work on some defenses that mix it up a bit.”
UNC also undoubtedly honored Tar Heel alumnus and sportscaster Stuart Scott with a moment of silence at the beginning of the contest. Scott passed away Sunday morning from a lengthy battle with cancer.
Next up for North Carolina is a road trip to Pittsburgh to face the Panthers Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
UNC head football coach Larry Fedora was at a loss for words following his team’s 35-7 blowout loss to their rivals in red. The Tar Heels came into the contest on a high off the dominant Duke win, but the roles were reversed Saturday afternoon.
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Carolina’s football team couldn’t match the physicality and intensity of the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday afternoon inside Kenan Stadium and as a result, finished the regular season with a disappointing 6-6 record.
Their Wolfpack rivals improved to 7-5 on the season and snapped a two-game losing slide to the Tar Heels.
***Click here for NCSU game recap***
Both UNC quarterback Marquise Williams and receiver Ryan Switzer were knocked out of the game by the relentless Wolfpack attack, and the enigmatic Carolina regular season came to a close with a resounding thud.
Coach Fedora wasn’t mincing any words after the game. He says he can’t remember a worse offensive output in his coaching career.
“You got to at least be decent up front, and we weren’t. We just didn’t have anybody make any plays. Give them credit. We didn’t match the energy level. That’s one of the worst offensive performances I’ve been around,” Coach Fedora says.
It’s hard to argue with the Carolina skipper. The Tar Heels only mustered 207 yards of total offense against the 454 yards racked up by the Wolfpack.
N.C. State shot out of the gates with high intensity and ruthless intention, dominating the line of scrimmage and delivering punishing blow after punishing blow to UNC signal caller Williams.
Carolina offensive lineman Landon Turner says the O-line’s struggles were all mental.
“I think before the game, everyone had plenty of energy. I think, mentally, somewhere down the line we lost some guys. It was more of a mental issue than a physical issue today,” Turner says.
The defensive line didn’t fare any better for the Tar Heels, giving up a whopping 388 rushing yards to the Wolfpack.
What’s more, N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran all over the Tar Heels, setting his school’s single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 167 yards.
The only bright spot for the Tar Heels came with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Quinshad Davis tied Hakeem Nicks for the all-time career receiving touchdowns record with his 21st score.
But that was no consolation prize for the junior receiver. Davis says his team didn’t respond at all to N.C. State’s aggression.
“We felt like we were ready to go. They just hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t react. That’s that,” Davis says.
What’s next for the Tar Heel football team? The demoralized Tar Heels will now await their postseason bowl destination, likely a lower-tier bowl game.
But in the meantime, Coach Fedora says the coaching staff will hit the recruiting trail and the players will focus on finishing up their coursework strong.
“The coaches will be on the road recruiting. Our guys have got their last few days of class, so they’ll be concentrating on finishing up well in the classroom. We will probably lift them and run them some just to keep them moving around, but really we’ll try to give their bodies a break here,” Coach Fedora says.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/back-drawing-board-fedora-heels/
With the win, the Wolfpack improved to 7-5 on the season, while the Tar Heels dropped to 6-6 overall with the defeat.
Both Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer were knocked out of the game by the relentless attack by the Wolfpack, and the enigmatic Carolina regular season came to a close with a resounding thud.
“Stunning is a good word. It was very disappointing. I was very surprised, actually. But, it’s what it was. No matter how you look at it, they dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s like what we did a week ago; it was the exact opposite this week. It’s hard to win a game when you don’t win upfront,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.
The Wolfpack shot out of the gates with high intensity and ruthless intention, dominating the line of scrimmage and delivering punishing blow after punishing blow to UNC quarterback Marquise Williams.
“That was definitely one of our worst games as an offensive line. It wasn’t a lack of ability. I think it was more of a mental gap. We got in our own heads today,” junior guard Landon Turner says.
The defensive line didn’t fare any better for the Tar Heels, giving up 388 rushing yards to the Wolfpack.
NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who set the single-game rushing record for rushing yards at his school with 167, capped off the 79-yard opening drive with a 17-yard touchdown run that gave the visitors a 7-0 lead with 11:02 on the first quarter clock.
Brissett followed that score up with another impressive drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end David Grinnage with 9:52 to play in the half.
UNC’s Thomas Moore missed a makeable 35-yard field goal attempt and the Wolfpack responded with a 4-yard touchdown dive from running back Shadrach Thornton to grab his team a 21-0 advantage at intermission.
The pounding on Williams didn’t stop after halftime. A venomous tackle left Williams flat on his back before being helped up and off the field early days in the third quarter.
A three-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Purvis at the close of an extended drive gave NC State an insurmountable 28-0 lead with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.
To make matters worse, Ryan Switzer was pummeled on a punt return and stayed down on the ground for minutes before being helped off the field in the fourth quarter.
The only bright spot for the Tar Heels came with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Quinshad Davis tied Hakeem Micks for the all-time career receiving touchdowns record with his 21st score.
“Very, very proud of the NC State Wolfpack football team and our coaching staff and our players and the preparation. For two games in a row, we’ve dominated an in-state opponent, and that’s what it was – 388 yards rushing and held them to 30. It was a great performance, in all three phases, by a bunch of different people,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren says.
The demoralized Tar Heels will now await their postseason bowl destination, likely a lower-tier bowl game, after a disappointing 6-6 regular season finish.
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The Tar Heels have been led by the gritty, determined play of junior signal caller Marquise Williams, who was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week for the fourth time this season Monday.
But according to Wolfpack defender Hakim Jones, Williams is a softy who “basically quits” when hit a few times.
UNC head coach Larry Fedora says he doesn’t think it’s wise to question his quarterback’s toughness.
“I wouldn’t question Marquise’s toughness. You have seen all of our games. You’ve seen how he gets hit and what he does. I haven’t looked at a game and thought he laid down for any reason,” Coach Fedora says.
If he got his way, Coach Fedora says he’d like Williams to go down to the ground a little quicker. But the Carolina skipper says that’s not even an option for the tough-natured Williams.
“I would like for him to go down more than he does, a whole lot more. But that’s not who he is. It’s not his makeup or in his DNA. He likes delivering blows,” Coach Fedora says.
There will certainly be plenty of heavy blows delivered Saturday afternoon in this rivalry matchup featuring two teams who don’t like each other.
Jones calling out Williams may be foolish, but it definitely throws more fuel on the fire of this intense rivalry that N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren says is fun to be a part of.
“It’s a great rivalry. The distance between the schools makes it special. They’re always heated and a lot of pageantry goes into them. I love everything about it. It’s a big challenge for our football team. Any time you’re in a game like this as a coach, it’s a pleasure,” Coach Doeren says.
Per usual, Coach Fedora turned the UNC locker room red last weekend. He says his interior decorating is partly motivational and partly just for fun.
“We like to have a good time. Whether that’s juvenile or not, the kids have fun with it. I don’t think it’s what motivates them to play the game. It’s kind of a joke, but they’ve had fun with it in the past,” Coach Fedora says.
The Wolfpack offense has found its feet this season in large part thanks to the play of Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Coach Fedora says Brissett will make life difficult for the Tar Heel defense.
“That guy is really talented. He can beat you with his legs or beat you with his arms. He’s going to extend plays. He’s a special players, there’s no doubt,” Coach Fedora says.
The key to the game may come down to the running game. The team that has held the rushing advantage has won 19 of the last 22 meetings.
Luckily for the Tar Heels, running back T.J. Logan is running with ruthless intention at just the right time. His revitalization mimics the upward trajectory of the entire UNC team.
Senior linebacker Norkeithus Otis says his teammates have grown in confidence.
“We just keep working and believing in each other. We find ways to win games and keep fighting. A lot of the confidence has come up in all the guys,” Otis says.
The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Wolfpack, 65-32-6, and have never lost under the direction of Coach Fedora.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-try-tame-wolfpack-home-finale/
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With the victory, the Tar Heels improved to 33-23 on the season and all but locked up an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wolfpack, however, fell to 32-23 on the year and likely saw their postseason hopes evaporate with the loss to their in-state rival.
In his first bit of relief work in 2014, Carolina ace Trent Thornton retired the final five batters to avoid extra innings in a rivalry that has seen its fair share of marathon thrillers.
Michael Russell, recently left off the First-Team All-ACC squad, bashed a double and a triple to lead the Carolina attack that totaled eight hits in the contest.
The Tar Heel bats certainly came out strong, racing out to a 4-1 lead in the third inning with a trio of runs. But the Wolfpack offense responded in the fourth inning with a pair of runs of their own to narrow the gap down to a single run.
From there, the game slowed down to a crawl as both pitching staffs repeatedly responded under pressure to remain unscathed. Carolina arms Zach Rice, Trevor Kelley, Spencer Trayner and Thornton faced 10 baserunners and stranded every one of them.
There will be no time for celebration. Next up for the Tar Heels is a Wednesday night battle with second-seeded Florida State.
First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. UNC will send Taylore Cherry to the mound to face FSU’s Billy Strode.
The Tar Heels will go into the contest with confidence. The last time the two schools met, Carolina emerged victorious at Boshamer Stadium.
The seventh-seeded North Carolina baseball team, 32-23 overall and 15-15 in the ACC, will face rival and No. 10 seed N.C. State, 32-22 overall and 13-17 in conference, Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the ACC Tournament at NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro.
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The winner advances to pool B alongside No.2 Florida State, No. 3 Virginia and No. 6 Maryland.
UNC Head Coach Mike Fox says this matchup must have been destiny.
“The stars aligned didn’t they? My wife predicted that six weeks ago – that we’d be playing them, and sure enough, that’s the way it worked out,” Coach Fox says.
It appeared the Duel at the DBAP rainout at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park would prevent Carolina and N.C. State from meeting on the diamond this season, but as fate would have it, the two premier college baseball programs will collide in unfamiliar territory – needing a victory to turn NCAA Tournament aspirations into a stronger reality.
Coach Fox didn’t vote for the new ACC Tournament format that features an expanded field and play-in games. But perhaps it’s fitting his defending champion Tar Heels will be featuring in a morning first pitch against the rival Wolfpack in a tilt that is typically reserved for primetime billing.
Coach Fox says Carolina is approaching the game as a must-win scenario for a variety of reasons.
“We think we do. We’re going into it under that assumption. We need to win for several reasons. One is to continue on in the tournament, but after that, there are some unknowns there. That’s our approach,” Coach Fox says.
It’s unknown whether Wolfpack ace Carlos Rodon will take to the mound against the Tar Heels. Wolfpack Head Coach Elliott Avent left things up in the air as to who would be his starter, unwilling to give a firm decision on Monday.
But Coach Fox and the Tar Heels are under no illusions. They fully expect to see the future major-leaguer hurling his fastballs at them at some point Tuesday. Coach Fox just isn’t sure when.
Coach Fox confirmed Monday that reliable reliever Reilly Hovis would be making a rare start in place of usual midweek performer Taylore Cherry.
Hovis says Coach Fox texted him Monday morning to let him know to be prepared to start in the critical elimination game. Hovis says there are different approaches to starting versus closing, but he’s confident in his versatility.
“Normally, when you’re coming in to close, you’re coming in at a big situation. At the start of the game, the game is right there in the balance. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. It’s a different mindset, but I’ve done both. I feel comfortable,” Hovis says.
Coach Fox says a number of arms will be ready to roll later in the game if need be, including Carolina sophomore standout Trent Thornton, a normal Friday starter.
Senior slugger Parks Jordan is trying to impart some of his experience on the freshmen heading into the postseason. But he says it’s important not to get too amped up in the pressurized moments of tournament action.
“You have to have the right mindset for these types of games. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. There’s a fine line between telling yourself ‘we need to win this game’ or ‘we have to win this game’. We should go into every game expecting to win. You should go into every game with a mindset just to play the way we’ve talked, the way we’ve been playing, and things will work out for themselves,” Jordan says.
Everybody remembers the 18-inning classic in the ACC Tournament a year ago in Durham. The marathon was eventually won by Carolina en route to the championship. UNC is 157-128-1 all-time against N.C. State, including a 26-22 edge under Coach Fox.
The winner of Tuesday’s throwdown, broadcast right here on WCHL, will advance to take on Florida State Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in pool play.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-n-c-state-rivalry-resumes-tuesday-greensboro/