HEELS GET REVENGE
The ACC’s preseason player of the year against an out-of-position wing player. The ACC’s leading passer against a developing freshman. The ACC’s leading rebounder against a player not known for physical play.
Based on those apparent mismatches, it appeared N.C. State was primed to beat North Carolina at the Smith Center for the first time in 10 years.
Instead, it was the Tar Heels who came away with a 76-65 win that determined who would move up to third place in the conference standings.
Junior Reggie Bullock had a game-high 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as UNC (19-8, 9-5 ACC) took control with an 18-2 run late in the second half to avenge last month’s loss in Raleigh, which broke the Tar Heels’ 13-game winning streak in the series.
Meanwhile, N.C. State (19-8, 8-6) has gone from preseason conference favorite to a team that may be sweating out the NCAA Tournament selection show for a second straight season.
see heels/page b7
ACC preseason player of the year C.J. Leslie was hounded by P.J. Hairston, a 6-5 sophomore who started playing power forward 10 days ago as UNC switched to a smaller lineup. The 6-9 Leslie committed six turnovers in the first 14 minutes and finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists.
“I’m pretty sure they told him it was a mismatch, but I really didn’t see it as a mismatch at all,” Hairston said. “I just tried to stay in front of him and keep him from getting to the rim.”
Freshman point guard Marcus Paige, who had been thoroughly outplayed by N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown four weeks ago in Raleigh, also held his own Saturday. Brown had 12 points and 12 assists, but Paige countered with 14 points — 11 in the final 7:15 — to go along with eight assists, three steals and no turnovers.
“(Brown) got the best of me bigtime in that matchup, and I just wanted to come out tonight and try to contain him as best I can,” Paige said. “I couldn’t let him have a big night like he did last time because he makes their whole offense go.”
The taller Wolfpack had a 43-34 rebounding edge, but UNC scored 24 points off 17 turnovers and outscored N.C. State 10-4 on fastbreak points. The Tar Heels were outscored 39-19 in transition in the first meeting.
“That was one of the keys to the game — sprint back, pick up, talk and compete,” Hairston said. “That was the thought of the day on the defensive end.”
N.C. State senior Scott Wood scored a team-high 19 points, shooting 5-of-12 from behind the arc, and Richard Howell finished with 17 rebounds. But that wasn’t enough to make up for Leslie’s performance and stop UNC coach Roy Williams from improving to 10-0 at the Smith Center against the Wolfpack.
“(Leslie’s) a great player, and great players have to step up and play, period,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “I love him as much as anybody, but when you’re a good player, then you’ve got to play better.
“Richard gets 17 rebounds today. Are we expecting Richard to get 30? Holy mackerel. Somebody else has got to rebound the ball. (C.J.) has to step up, period.”
Leslie declined to comment after the game.
Both teams primarily used a six-man rotation, though UNC coach Roy Williams put in four subs to play with Paige after being “ticked off” with UNC’s effort as N.C. State led 43-42 with 13:25 left.
Wood hit consecutive 3-pointers to push the Wolfpack lead to 49-45 with 11:47 to play when Williams put the starting five back in. The teams traded baskets for the next four minutes, but UNC went ahead to stay at 57-55 with 7:15 remaining on a transition 3-pointer by Paige, who was left open after another N.C. State turnover.
“Marcus Paige made some big baskets for us in the second half,” Williams said. “I’m particularly happy since he played so poorly in Raleigh. He’s a tough little nut.”
The Tar Heels eventually would score 11 straight points to go up 70-57. UNC led by 15 in the final seconds and were serenaded by chants of “This is our state” from the student section as they left the floor.
“Our mindset (was), ‘Hey, remember what happened last time; it’s not going to happen again,’” Paige said. “Especially on our home court.”
NOTES — N.C. State freshman T.J. Warren, a Durham native, posted his second straight double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. ... UNC freshman Joel James (concussion) dressed but wound up not playing for the fourth straight game. ... During a timeout in the first half, Giovani Bernard’s game-winning punt return against N.C. State was played on the videoboard.
NORTH CAROLINA 76, N.C. STATE 65
Percentages: FG .443, FT .462. 3-Point Goals: 5-16, .313 (Wood 5-12, T. Lewis 0-1, Purvis 0-1, Brown 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 6 (Howell 3, Warren 2, Wood). Turnovers: 17 (Leslie 6, Brown 4, Warren 4, Purvis, Howell). Steals: 4 (Leslie 2, Purvis, Brown). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .438, FT .688. 3-Point Goals: 9-21, .429 (Bullock 5-12, Paige 2-4, Hairston 2-4, McDonald 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 5 (Hubert 2, McAdoo, Johnson, Hairston). Turnovers: 10 (McAdoo 6, Tokoto, Strickland, Davis). Steals: 9 (Paige 3, Hairston 2, McAdoo 2, McDonald, Strickland). Technical Fouls: None.
A—21,750. Officials—Ray Natili, Doug Sirmons, Gary Maxwell.