How did N.C. State beat Carolina Saturday? Here’s how.
Ten minutes into the Wolfpack’s visit to the Smith Center, I turned to a friend sitting next to me and said, “OMG, State is better than we are.” Man for man, despite the publicity UNC basketball gets due to its legendary status, State was better.
Playing four guards around highly underrated Turkish center Omer Yurtseven, the Pack perimeter players all can dribble-drive, beat their collapsing defenders and find the open man on the perimeter. Saturday, at least, they hit the three-point shots, making 15 of 29, not counting a heave at halftime.
By contrast, the Tar Heels play for someone who wants to throw the ball inside as much as any coach in the country. Trouble is, Roy Williams’ current freshmen big men are little threat to score the ball and don’t have to be double-teamed. Remember, he lost his top three post men from last year’s national championship team – Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley – all of whom are playing pro basketball somewhere.
With no inside game, the defense can cheat up on Carolina’s perimeter, which doesn’t have great penetrators who can draw defenders. The best, Theo Pinson, went one-on-one to get most of his career-high 22 points Saturday. The Tar Heels shot 19 threes and made only four, outscored by 33 on the long ball. They also missed nine free throws, way too many for them, while State got four more second-chance points. And Yurtseven had a double-double with 16 and 13, compared to 9 and 0 for our bigs.
In short, it was amazing Carolina got the game into overtime on Cam Johnson’s two clutch free throws. But then the home team had the late misses and mistakes when, with the Smith Center roaring, that usually happens to the rattled visitors.
Granted, the Wolfpack won’t make half of 30 three-pointers in the rematch in Raleigh, nor will Allerik Freeman can all seven of his attempts from the arc. If the outside shooting is reversed, the outcome could be different next time. But, right now, the teams are tied at 5-4 in ACC play, and State is better.
With Duke and its five first-round NBA draft choices losing to second-ranked Virginia, which has no draft picks, it marked the first time since 1973 that both Blue Bloods lost at home on the same day. Forty-five years ago, David Thompson and the No. 2, undefeated Pack won at Duke by 24 points, while No. 4 UNC lost at home to unranked Miami of Ohio, an equally weird happening.