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NC State aims for a season sweep of the Tar Heels

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 13 FIU at NC State Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It seems barring a last-minute setback that NC State will be back on the court for the first time in 10 days, and that’s exciting even if the circumstances are less than ideal. The Wolfpack will have the opportunity to sweep UNC for the first time in a long time.

But the Pack also may have to do it shorthanded, not that this is anything new—and State did beat UNC in December despite playing that game without DJ Funderburk. It can be done!

— NC State controlled the majority of the first meeting, trailing only once, at 2-0 early on. State scored 27 points over the first 10 minutes to build a 10-point lead, and the Pack led by as many as 17 in the first half.

— The story of that one was NC State’s defensive effort, though, particularly on Garrison Brooks, who killed the Wolfpack in two games last season. This time around, Brooks was just 5-14 from the field.

— And UNC got almost nothing from beyond the arc, finishing 2-12 from three, while turning the ball over 18 times. The Heels rebounded 45% of their missed shots, which is one obvious area for improvement by State, but Carolina still hit only half of its two-point attempts, and that wasn’t nearly good enough to overcome its problems elsewhere.

— In conference games, UNC’s offense ranks dead last in eFG% and 12th in turnover rate. The Heels are shooting a league-worst 43.9% inside the arc, and that is really bad news for a team that doesn’t take very many threes. This group really needs to dominate the paint in order to be successful, and they’ve had a lot of trouble making that happen. The Heels could easily be 2-5 in conference rather than 4-3, but for wins over Miami and Notre Dame by a combined three points.

— NC State shot the ball better, took better care of the ball, and got to the free throw line more often than the Heels in the first meeting. Devon Daniels was outstanding, scoring 21 on 8-13 shooting, while Shakeel Moore scored a career-high 17 points. The Wolfpack shot 47% from three (8-17), helping to overcome Funderburk’s absence and an off day from Jericole Hellems, who scored one point in 34 minutes.

— If the Pack can win the turnover battle again while at least limiting UNC to an OR% under 40.0, there’s no reason why that can’t be good enough to deliver another win. It’d be a huge boost to confidence that State badly needs after its hiccuped start to the new year.

— KenPom has the Heels by five.