Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Seeking their 20th win of the season, the 15th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels take on a familiar foe on Tuesday night as they tangle with the NC State Wolfpack in ACC action at the Dean Smith Center.
The Tar Heels entered the week tied with Louisville for fourth place in the ACC standings at 9-5 after crushing Georgia Tech at home by a final of 89-60 on Saturday. The victory snapped a two-game slide, which included a two-point overtime loss to Duke in Durham earlier in the week.
As for the Wolfpack, they've managed to split their 14 league outings and are five games above .500 overall with only four games remaining before the start of the ACC Tournament on March 10. The team has won two straight, the first time that's happened since the first two weeks of December, thanks to a 74-65 triumph over Louisville on Valentine's Day and a 69-53 romp over Virginia Tech at home three days ago.
According to NC State, this is the 228th all-time meeting between the rivals, with the Tar Heels leading by a lopsided 151-76 margin. North Carolina slipped by in an 81-79 decision in the most recent meeting in the middle of last month, which means the Heels have now won four straight over NC State.
Against visiting Virginia Tech, the Pack shot 56.5 percent from the field in the first half in order to grab a 32-25 advantage at the break and eventually cruise to the 16-point win at PNC Arena. Ralston Turner was responsible for 18 points as he knocked down 4-of-8 shots behind the 3-point line, followed by Trevor Lacey and Anthony Barber with 14 and 10 points, respectively, the latter pairing combining to hand out 10 assists as well.
During ACC action, NC State has scored 70.4 ppg while shooting a decent 44.3 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent behind the 3-point line with Lacey (15.7 ppg) having connected on a total of 35 triples and Turner (13.4 ppg) converting another 40, which leaves the rest of the unit with just 24 3- pointers. But more than just a scorer who has made good on close to 40 percent of his perimeter tries, Lacey is also first on the team with 52 assists and one of the better rebounders with 4.2 boards per contest as well.
After the heartbreaking loss to the Blue Devils a few days earlier, North Carolina needed a positive outcome over the weekend and got more than that with the crushing defeat of Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill. All five starters scored in double figures, as well as reserve Isaiah Hicks who tallied 12 points in 13 minutes off the bench. Kennedy Meeks led the way with a game-high 18 points, Brice Johnson posted 16, J.P. Tokoto 12 and Justin Jackson 11 points. Marcus Paige registered a double-double consisting of 13 points and a game-high 10 assists, adding four steals as well, for a group that shot a staggering 62.3 percent from the floor.
On one of the top-scoring teams in the country, averaging 79.5 ppg, the Tar Heels are led by Paige and his 13.6 ppg, although he is perhaps just as valuable as a facilitator who has handed out 119 assists and turned the ball over just 52 times. He has converted 64 of his 168 3-point tries, which means the rest of the unit has combined to make only 57 triples over 27 outings. Meeks and Johnson check in with 12.9 and 12.8 ppg, respectively, and are also the two toughest rebounders on the roster with 7.5 and 7.9 rpg, respectively, as well. As a group, the Heels are beating foes on the glass by an impressive 9.2 rpg.