Cat Barber came out and played a brilliant first 10 minutes for the Wolfpack, but as we've seen all too often this season, Barber didn't get enough help from teammates. Barber would eventually cool from his incredible start, and North Carolina was able to take control and pull away for an 80-68 victory.
Barber had 13 quick points as NC State built a 13-point edge in the opening 20 minutes, and it seemed Barber was destined for some insane point total. Alas, it wasn't to be. He still finished with 32 points, but it took him 26 field goal attempts to get there.
UNC's size and depth once again played havoc on State, as the Tar Heels put the squeeze defensively on the painted area. When State stopped hitting jump shots, the Heels quickly turned the tide. At the offensive end, Carolina grabbed almost half of their missed shots, helping to mitigate a so-so shooting performance.
The Heels got points from seven different players, led by Brice Johnson's 22. NC State got no points from Cody Martin or Lennard Freeman, and BeeJay Anya was rendered a non-factor as well. Maverick Rowan had an incredibly ill-timed 2-12 shooting performance. Abdul-Malik Abu was the only Wolfpack player to hit at least half his shots.
But Abu also managed only one defensive rebound in 32 minutes. Freeman had one board total in 15 minutes. The Pack relies on those two to carry it on the defensive boards, and that sort of non-performance is not a recipe for beating a team like UNC. The Heels averaged more than 1.2 points per possession in this contest thanks in large part to their rebounding. NC State would have needed to be near-perfect at its own offensive end, and obviously fell well short (ha) of that.
It's frustrating, but UNC has a lot of very tall, very talented players. Give NC State credit for the energy and hustle it brought, and a strong first 12-15 minutes. Over the long run of 40 minutes, though, it's difficult to beat a team that is not only better, but also a terrible matchup for you.