Rivals look for some payback

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 07:42 PM

Getting emotionally ready for today’s games shouldn’t be a problem for three Triangle men’s basketball teams.
The N.C. Central Eagles host N.C. A&T at 4 p.m. with hopes of sweeping the regular-season series, though it’s been more than two and a half months since their 66-62 win over the Aggies in Greensboro on Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, a Durham native could play a big role when rivals North Carolina and N.C. State meet at the Smith Center today (4 p.m., ESPN).
Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said that former Riverside player T.J. Warren will make his second consecutive start for N.C. State. The freshman forward had 31 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday against Florida State and currently leads the ACC in field-goal percentage (62.8).
Warren’s emergence adds another component to the Wolfpack as they attempt to win at the Smith Center for the first time since 2003. The Brewster Academy (N.H.) graduate already scored 19 points off the bench when N.C. State defeated UNC 91-83 on Jan. 26 to break a 13-game losing streak in the series.
Besides the usual emotions of a rivalry game, this contest also has important postseason implications. N.C. State (19-7), UNC (18-8) and Virginia (18-8) are all tied for third in the ACC with an 8-5 league record. Only two of those three teams can receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament — a critical step for any team that hopes to win the title.