RALEIGH — North Carolina State’s players and coaches won’t have to hear anything more about a long losing streak to Roy Williams and rival North Carolina.
Lorenzo Brown had 20 points and 11 assists to help the 18th-ranked Wolfpack beat the Tar Heels 91-83 on Saturday night, ending a 13-game losing streak in the century-long rivalry.
Freshman T.J. Warren added 19 points for the Wolfpack (16-4, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who beat the Tar Heels for the first time in nearly six years. N.C. State dominated much of the night, leading by 23 points before the break and 28 after halftime before the Tar Heels put together a second-half push that made things interesting in the final minutes.
N.C. State hadn’t beaten UNC since an 83-79 home win in February 2007, its only victory in 20 tries against the Tar Heels since Williams returned to his alma mater before the 2003-04 season.
“Our program’s lost a lot of games to North Carolina — they’ve been great, you’ve got to give them credit,” second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “They are good and have been good. We’re trying to get good. We’re trying to climb up the mountain, and at some point, you’ve got to turn it a little bit and this is a start.”
This was exactly the type of win the Wolfpack needed if the program is going to live up to its status as preseason ACC favorite. And going back to the 84-76 win against top-ranked Duke two weeks ago, this is the first time N.C. State has beaten both perennial league heavyweights — not to mention nearby rivals — in the regular season since 2002-03.
It was also the Wolfpack’s highest scoring output against the Tar Heels (13-6, 3-3) in 11 years in a game that looked destined for a blowout.
“When we’re out playing and running the floor,” junior C.J. Leslie said, “I don’t think we have no limits for how good we can play.”
The Wolfpack entered the year as the ACC favorite for the first time since the 1974-75 season. But N.C. State was 1-2 since the Duke win, losing on a last-second basket at Maryland then blowing a 16-point lead in an 86-84 loss at struggling Wake Forest on Tuesday night.
It was a sign that this year’s group was having trouble getting up for teams it was supposed to beat, and Gottfried had warned his team all year about the challenge of playing as a favorite.
But on Saturday, N.C. State — wearing all red — came out on the attack.
With Brown running almost unchecked through the UNC defense, N.C. State blew things open with a 20-2 run and pushed the lead to 23 points on Warren’s layup with about 90 seconds left before the break. The Wolfpack led 45-26 at halftime and pushed the margin to 61-33 on Brown’s transition layup with 13:22 left.
UNC looked so bad for the first 30 minutes that Williams was in no mood to discuss his team’s late rally to make it a five-point game in the final minute.
“I don’t care about learning experiences,” Williams said. “Learning experiences, that’s for babies. Our guys have got to play. We’ve had enough learning experiences. We’ve got to play.”
N.C. State shot 49 percent and Brown frequently had the Wolfpack out in transition, outscoring the Tar Heels 39-19 in fast-break points — an area that Williams’ teams usually have the edge. N.C. State also got strong games from Leslie (17 points, 10 rebounds) and Richard Howell (16 points, 14 rebounds) up front.
It certainly didn’t help the Tar Heels that top big man James Michael McAdoo picked up two fouls in the first 2 minutes, both while guarding Leslie.
P.J. Hairston scored 19 points to lead the Tar Heels, including four second-half 3-pointers that helped UNC slowly climb back into the game. McAdoo finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but UNC’s starting backcourt of freshman Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland combined for 13 points on 4-for-18 shooting.
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