College Basketball: N.C. State 83, North Carolina 79
By Bret Strelow
RALEIGH — The game meant enough to prompt a wardrobe change from first-year N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe.
The outcome — an 83-79 home victory against No. 3 North Carolina — could have a long-lasting impact.
“It means he’s going to be around here for a long time,” N.C. State freshman Brandon Costner said.
Lowe, sporting a red blazer, watched the Wolfpack
(13-8, 3-5 ACC) shoot 76.5 percent in the second half and end a six-game losing streak to the Tar Heels (20-3, 6-2 ACC) on Saturday.
Former coach Herb Sendek, who went a combined 8-38 against North Carolina and Duke, left for Arizona State after last season. N.C. State hired Lowe, a former Wolfpack player who acknowledges the importance of winning rivalry games.
“It’s one win, but it’s a big win,” said Lowe, who became the fifth N.C. State coach and first since Les Robinson in 1991 to win his first meeting with UNC. “I’ve never shied away from the matchup, the rivalry of the three schools down here. It’s a big win. I think you can tell by the fans on the court.
“It’s not something that I made up — this was here long before me. When I got here, they told me this was a big game, so I believed them. I don’t see it ever changing.”
Roy Williams’ success against the Wolfpack came to a screeching halt.
Williams had an 11-0 career record against N.C. State, including a 6-0 mark since he took over at UNC in 2003. The Tar Heels throttled the Wolfpack by 24 points in the RBC Center last February, but N.C. State led by as many as 11 points in the second half of Saturday’s contest.
UNC, the national leader in rebounding margin, had nine first-half boards and was outrebounded for only the third time this season.
It had held the opposition to less than 40-percent shooting in nine of 10 halves since a loss at Virginia Tech on Jan. 13, but the Wolfpack shot 13-for-17 in the second half and finished at 60.5 percent.
“I told Sidney that I was very happy for him,” Williams said. “I was ticked off — I don’t know that I used the exact same language — but it was the equivalent of being ticked off.
“The game they played against Virginia Tech and then to turn around and play like this against us, Sid and his staff and all of the Wolfpack faithful should feel very good about that. We’re 180 degrees away.”
N.C. State entered Wednesday’s game at Virginia Tech as the ACC’s last-place team and knocked the Hokies out of first.
That result enabled UNC to slide up to the top spot, but another conference leader fell to the Wolfpack even though four straight losses at the RBC Center left N.C. State as the last team searching for an ACC home win.
The Tar Heels were coming off a 28-point win at Arizona and a 41-point blowout of Miami.
“I think we’re too fat and happy and expected to win by walking out there,” Williams said. “That’s not going to happen in this league against good teams.”
N.C. State is a better team with point guard Engin Atsur in the lineup, and he played for the third straight game following a lengthy absence caused by a hamstring injury.
Atsur (12 points, 10 assists) and Costner (15 points, 11 rebounds) recorded double-doubles, and Courtney Fells scored a career-high 21 points.
Tyler Hansbrough had 24 points to lead UNC, which lost despite shooting 48.4 percent and scoring 30 points off 22 Wolfpack turnovers.
“I think we’re going to look back at this,” N.C. State forward Ben McCauley said, “and realize that was the beginning of what this group and what Coach Lowe is all about.”
Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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