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Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Rapid Reaction: UNC 86, NC State 74

By Dana O'Neil


RALEIGH, N.C. -- A quick look at North Carolina’s 86-74 win at NC State.

Why it happened: NC State plays in spurts, but it didn’t play in enough of them against a hot-shooting Tar Heels team. North Carolina scorched the Wolfpack from beyond the arc, connecting on 10-of-19 3-pointers. UNC shot 53 percent from 3 and 51 percent overall.

What it means: NC State’s uncomfortable bubble seat just got a little more uncomfortable. The Wolfpack had three chances (at Duke, vs. FSU, vs. UNC) to make their case and failed in all three. Now NCSU has to win out against Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech and hope for a little help from other bubble dwellers. North Carolina, meantime, is trying to build a case for a No. 1 seed, an argument that got a little stronger with Missouri’s loss to Kansas State. A lot still has to happen for the Heels to secure a top spot, but winning out will make it an interesting debate for the Selection Committee.

Star of the game: Kendall Marshall isn’t known for being a scorer. That doesn’t mean he can’t score. The North Carolina point guard had a career-high 22 points, 13 assists and most impressive, no turnovers. He was 4-of-5 from long range. Not much more you can ask a point guard to do.

For starters: North Carolina rode hot shooting from the 3-point line to stake a 46-41 lead at the half. The Tar Heels hit 7 of 14 from the behind the arc. But credit to the Wolfpack, which rallied from an early 10-2 hole to make this a game. C.J. Leslie, who needed to be big against UNC’s bigs, was in fact that. He had 14 and 7 in the first 20 minutes, helping the Pack stay tight with the Heels on the boards, 22-21.

Simply not good enough: NC State turned it over just four times, but was 3-of-13 (23 percent) from long range and just 13-of-23 (57 percent) from the free throw line. That's simply not going to get it done against a team as talented as the Heels.

What’s next: NC State’s NCAA tournament hopes are dangling by a thread, especially since some of its fellow bubble brethren (Seton Hall, Kansas State, etc.) took care of business on Tuesday night. That means every game is huge and the next one is awfully dangerous. Clemson has won three of its past four. The Tar Heels, trying to win the league crown, travel to Virginia, host Maryland and then finish the season off with the remach against Duke.