University of North Carolina Athletics

By Adam Lucas

1. State caps a miraculous ACC Tournament run by defeating Carolina, 84-76. That’s a generational win for a State program that has struggled to have anything good happen for decades.

2. Keep in mind this does nothing to change Carolina’s ultimate goal. This game only matters if the Tar Heels have a disappointing NCAA Tournament. Make a deep run, and no one outside the Beltline will ever remember who won the ACC Tournament, as has been the case for the last 25 years or so. Carolina’s last four NCAA titles have come after failing to win the ACC Tournament.

3. The Wolfpack just made too many incredible shots in the first 35 minutes for the Tar Heels to win. It was essentially a two-man game for State, as DJ Horne and DJ Burns repeatedly figured out a way to somehow get the ball in the basket. The early indicator: Burns tossed in his first three-pointer of the season in the first half. It was that kind of night. State shot 54.9% for the game. Horne scored 29 points before fouling out, and Burns added 20.

4. Carolina, meanwhile, never seemed to be able to match State’s win-or-go-home intensity. There were too many possessions that turned into RJ Davis or another Tar Heel taking a contested shot instead of moving the ball. Carolina shot 37.3 percent for the game and 26.7 percent from three. Davis led the Heels with 30 and Armando Bacot had 18, but Harrison Ingram was the only other player in double figures with 10. The worst case scenario for the Heels has always been not getting that third or fourth scorer to pair with the two leaders–that’s what happened in this game. Carolina took 67 shots in the game and Davis hoisted 26 of them (17 attempts in the second half). Davis and Bacot had 24 of Carolina’s first 27 points in the second half. 

5. And even with all those struggles, State turned the ball over enough late in the game to create some chances for a comeback. The door was open. But Carolina missed some open three-pointers during a stretch when they made just two of 16 shots in the closing minutes. The Heels were three-for-18 from three in the second half.

6. One important factor with the offensive struggles: although the free throws piled up in the final two minutes, the Heels weren’t successful getting to the line during the decisive part of the game. They shot 18-for-23 from the charity stripe for the game but nine of those came late. That was coupled with Carolina being much more foul-prone defensively in the second half. The Heels were called for three fouls in the first half and State shot two free throws. That dramatically changed in the second half, as the Pack attempted 27 free throws in the final 20 minutes, converting 21. Some of those came late when the Heels were trying to come back, but a healthy portion came early in the period when the Heels couldn’t defend without fouling.

7. With State facing its fifth game in five days, it seemed pretty elementary that Carolina would try to run the Pack at every opportunity. State did a pretty good job in transition in the first half, as they limited the Heels to just one fast break point…other than a 10-point fast break outburst from the 9:19 mark to 6:42. The fast break points ended up being 19-3 in favor of Carolina, but State was so effective in the halfcourt that it never felt like that was a decisive part of the game.

8. Two seemingly small plays that made a big difference: officials electing to look the other way when it appeared Horne had committed his fourth foul early in the second half, and Jalen Washington committing a moving screen that negated a Cormac Ryan three-pointer with 9:18 remaining in a five-point game. 

9. The first half was dictated by four players: Burns and Horne for NC State, and Davis and Bacot for Carolina. Burns and Horne combined for 24 of State’s 39 in the first 20 minutes (but 15 of the final 19) and Davis and Bacot had a combined 21 of Carolina’s 40.

10. The Heels got a break when Ingram got a little ahead of himself on a Tar Heel fast break when Carolina had a sizable personnel advantage, but it ended up with Horne being whistled for his third foul after fouling Ingram. That sent Horne to the bench for the final 1:41 of the half and the Heels took a one-point halftime lead after a nice set following the use-it-or-lose-it timeout ended with a Cormac Ryan three-pointer.

11. In somewhat unusual fashion, Davis passed Justin Jackson for the single-season Carolina three-point record. Davis did it on a reviewed three-pointer that was initially called a two. During the next timeout, officials reviewed the play and changed it to a two.

12. Hubert Davis perceived Kevin Keatts was on the court and created an obstacle for Cormac Ryan in the first half on a UNC transition opportunity, and it caused perhaps the most animated explosion from the Tar Heel head coach all year. ACC supervisor of officials Bryan Kersey told us on the Carolina Insider podcast that if a coach made contact with a player on the playing floor during the course of play it would be an automatic technical foul.

13. Big win for the Tar Heels in the pregame, as manager James Rolf Blizzard defeated former Duke standout Jay Williams in a halfcourt shooting contest.

14. The ACC Tournament continued to bring out a stellar list of former Tar Heels in attendance. Tyler Zeller was on the Tar Heel Sports Network call, and Joel Berry II was at the game with ACC Network. The faces in the stands included Marcus Ginyard, Ty Lawson, Jackie Manuel and of course head coach Roy Williams. And in a very cool note–Dontrez Styles, who transferred from Carolina at the end of last season and now plays for Georgetown here in Washington, D.C., came out the last two days to support his former teammates.

15. NC State will play on into the NCAA Tournament, but are unlikely to see the Heels again. With that in mind, best wishes to longtime Voice of the Wolfpack Gary Hahn. Hahn announced in October that this would be his final school year with NC State and his retirement becomes effective at the end of the basketball season. Calling an ACC Tournament title was a very fitting way for someone to end their broadcasting career who has been involved with the Pack since 1990. Longtime radio voices like Hahn are part of what has made this league part of the fabric of our lives for so long. 

16. The loss drops Carolina to just 55-14 against State in the last 32 seasons.

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