Sidney Lowe has proved he knows how to beat North Carolina. North Carolina State’s first-year coach, however, has no chance of moving past the Tar Heels in the ACC.
Fifth-ranked North Carolina looks to at least keep pace atop the conference standings and avenge a road loss to the Wolfpack when the teams meet Wednesday.
The Tar Heels (23-4, 9-3) return home after beating a ranked team on the road for the fourth time, 77-72 over then-No. 21 Boston College on Saturday night. That win moved North Carolina into a first-place tie in the ACC with No. 24 Virginia, which plays at Miami on Wednesday.
North Carolina State (14-11, 4-8) is 10th in the league standings and has been inconsistent under Lowe, but ended a six-game losing streak to the Tar Heels with an 83-79 win on Feb. 3.
Lowe was a senior point guard on the Jim Valvano-coached Wolfpack team that beat the Tar Heels twice in 1982-83 and went on to win an improbable national championship. In his first game as a coach against North Carolina, Lowe helped N.C. State beat its rival for the first time since a 75-67 overtime victory on Feb. 25, 2003.
“He was a player, so he knows what we’re going through, he knows how we feel toward the game,” Wolfpack forward Brandon Costner said of Lowe after the last meeting. “Getting on us in practice so that we knew that this game was more than other games.”
The loss to N.C. State is one of only two in the past 10 games for the Tar Heels, who have four games left to try and secure the ACC regular-season title.
“If we don’t maintain the intensity now, then we’re not going to have it,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “That’s the bottom line. I think our kids will practice hard, I think they’ll play hard.”
Tyler Hansbrough, who had 24 points in the last meeting with the Wolfpack, had 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the Tar Heels on Saturday. Ty Lawson added 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Hansbrough is averaging 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds on a North Carolina team that is shooting 50.4 percent from the field and ranks second in the nation with 87.7 points per game.
Williams has been going to his bench less in recent games. Ten Tar Heels are averaging at least 11.5 minutes per game, but only seven have in the last five contests.
Williams, though, may be tempted to go to his reserves more often against N.C. State, which relies heavily on its starters.
Costner, Courtney Fells, Gavin Grant, Engin Atsur and Ben McCauley—who all average more than 30 minutes per game—accounted for all but three of the Wolfpack’s points in an 81-56 win over Virginia Tech on Sunday.
N.C. State had lost three straight after beating North Carolina.
“It’s a great feeling, especially when you’ve lost a couple and you’re a little down and some people might be feeling that you’re dead and it’s over with,” Lowe said. “We never felt that way. We just felt we had a couple of bad games.”
Atsur scored 20 points while McCauley added 16 for the Wolfpack, who shot a season-high 67 percent from the field.
McCauley is tied with Costner for the team lead in scoring with 16.1 points per game.
Fells had 21 points to lead N.C. State in its last matchup with North Carolina.
The Tar Heels have a 134-75 lead in the all-time series with the Wolfpack, who have dropped their last three visits to Chapel Hill.