North Carolina-NC State Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- North Carolina had little difficulty extending a remarkable home winning streak against a team this past weekend.
The No. 7 Tar Heels have put together a pretty impressive run against their next opponent, North Carolina State, as well.
With a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the ACC, visiting North Carolina tries for a 12th consecutive victory over the Wolfpack on Tuesday night.
The Tar Heels (23-4, 10-2) came out with another stifling defensive display to defeat Clemson 74-52 on Saturday - improving to 56-0 all-time against the Tigers in Chapel Hill. North Carolina forced 15 turnovers and held a 39-26 rebounding advantage.
"Everybody thinks that defense is just sweat and slobbering and yelling at guys and stuff, but you've got to know what you're doing," coach Roy Williams said. "I think our guys are more in tune with our defensive principles right now."
Second in the country with 82.8 points per game, the Tar Heels have also picked up the pace defensively. North Carolina has limited opponents to an average of 56.0 points - 10.4 less than its season mark - during a three-game win streak.
"I do believe that, defensively, and the work on the backboards is where this team has developed consistency," added Williams, whose team is pulling down a Division-I leading 46.0 boards per contest. "I hope I don't hate those words after Tuesday night's game."
If the Tar Heels' recent efforts versus North Carolina State (18-9, 7-5) are any indication, Williams doesn't have much to worry about. North Carolina has handed the Wolfpack 11 consecutive defeats by an average of 16.1 points while outrebounding them by 11.5 per game.
The Tar Heels continued their domination in this series with a 74-55 home win Jan. 26 behind a 48-26 rebounding edge. North Carolina has also won four straight and seven of eight in Raleigh.
North Carolina State is hoping to avoid a season-high third consecutive loss. Two days after falling 78-73 at No. 5 Duke, the Wolfpack suffered a 76-62 defeat to then-No. 20 Florida State at home Saturday.
Despite a career high-tying 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting from sophomore C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State shot a season-worst 29.3 percent from the floor.
"We have to accept the fact that if you want to play in the greatest show on Earth, then you better toughen up and you better man up, pal," coach Mark Gottfried said. "There is no other way to look at it. Teams that get to play in March are mentally tough enough to withstand most things, and they fight their way through it. ... We're not there, and we've got to get there."
Time could be running out for the Wolfpack, who are in dire need of a signature win. North Carolina State has dropped 11 straight matchups versus Top 25 foes - including all six this season by an average of 10.4 points.
Second in the conference with 18.0 points per game, Harrison Barnes could make things difficult on the Wolfpack. Barnes has scored at least 23 points in three of his last four games, posting 24 on 9-of-18 from the field Saturday.
"I think Harrison's being the player that everybody tried to make him out to be a year and a half ago," said guard Kendall Marshall, who dished out 13 assists against Clemson. "He's becoming that player now ... Sometimes players just have to grow into that. I think he's done a great job of adjusting to the role. He is one of our main go-to guys."
Updated February 21, 2012