Seventh-ranked North Carolina has won 11 in a row over NC State, but there’s more than the rivalry at stake at the RBC Center on Tuesday night.
The Wolfpack has lost two straight, and needs a win over a top-tier team to stay in the NCAA tournament at-large discussion.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are trying to stay atop the ACC standings and push themselves in the NCAA positioning.
A few things to watch in the 8 p.m. EST tip-off (ESPN3):
Expect emotions to be running high.
Saturday night, former NC State stars Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta — whose jersey numbers hang from the rafters — were ejected from the Wolfpack’s game at the RBC Center by official Karl Hess for “excessive demonstration.” (Hess was subsequently reprimanded by the ACC).
Tuesday night, the duo will be back on the court, as the school will honor the 1989 ACC regular-season title team — which featured both players — before the game.
“Our goal is that we want to come out with a strong start and take the crowd out of it early,” UNC point guard Kendall Marshall said. “If we can do that, it’ll be a lot easier than if we let the crowd get behind them. I think they’re also honoring one of their teams, so the juices are going to be flowing for them. We just want to take the air out of the building as quick as possible.”
“Everybody thinks that defense is just sweat and slobbering and yelling at guys and stuff like that,’’ UNC coach Roy Williams said. “You’ve got to know what the dickens you’re doing.”
The Tar Heels appear to be getting there. They’ve held their last three opponents to less than 40 percent shooting, and pose a tall matchup problem for the Wolfpack, which shot only 36.8 percent against the Tar Heels last month.
One key again will be slowing junior Scott Wood, who made only 4 of 12 shots in the last match-up. According to The (Raleigh) News & Observer, the Pack actually locked away the balls and didn't practice on Sunday to keep the players – including Wood – from wearing themselves out by shooting too much.
THE POINT GUARD MATCH-UP
Marshall, before the last showdown, complimented Wolfpack ballhandler Lorenzo Brown, saying Brown had quietly posted “one of the best point guard seasons of the year.” Marshall, though, easily won the battle last time, recording seven points and 11 assists. Brown finished with nine and six, respectively, and his team lost 74-55.
If Brown was aggressive, he could test Marshall. If not, expect the Tar Heels sophomore to add to the 11 double-digit assist games he’s already posted this season.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.