Although North Carolina reached the 20-win mark for a seventh straight season over the weekend, it’s not particularly thrilled about how it played.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels look to bounce back from a sloppy performance and continue their dominance of North Carolina State when they meet Wednesday night in Raleigh.
Facing a Boston College team that it defeated by 32 points three weeks earlier and has one of the worst defenses in the ACC, North Carolina (20-6, 10-2) struggled mightily to get its offense on track Saturday.
The Tar Heels were held to 36.8 percent shooting and finished with their lowest point total in the history of the Dean Smith Center but still beat the Eagles 48-46 for their eighth victory in nine games.
North Carolina looked like it was going to win easily, but after leading by 15 with 11 1/2 minutes left, it only scored nine more points. The Eagles had a chance to win, but Reggie Jackson missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
“It’s very disappointing because, at this point in time, we have become a good team,” said Harrison Barnes, who missed 10 of 14 shots and finished with 10 points. “We’ve got a lot of good wins underneath our belt, but we almost threw it away.
“We didn’t come out with the edge that we had in Boston, but there is a lot we can learn from this game and we have got to get better.”
The Tar Heels, 1 1/2 games back of ACC-leading Duke, appear to have a good chance of getting back on track against a North Carolina State team they defeated 84-64 on Jan. 29.
North Carolina has won nine straight over N.C. State by an average of 16.2 points since an 83-79 loss Feb. 3, 2007, its only blemish in the last 16 meetings.
In Chapel Hill last month, the Tar Heels had more second-half points (50) than they scored in Saturday’s entire game. Barnes led the way with a then-career best 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, while John Henson had 16 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
A game against the Wolfpack (14-12, 4-8) might also help get North Carolina’s offense in gear. N.C. State has the league’s third-worst defense at 70.0 points allowed per game and has yielded an average of 81.0 in its last four losses.
The Tar Heels also won’t have to worry about facing one of the Wolfpack’s top defenders with 6-foot-8 forward Richard Howell not playing because of a possible concussion suffered in Sunday’s 87-80 loss to Maryland. Howell, averaging 7.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, took an elbow to the head after playing just 2 minutes.
N.C. State and the Terrapins traded baskets for much of the game before the Wolfpack fell apart. With the score tied at 71 with just over 5 minutes remaining, N.C. State missed its next eight shots and fell behind by 11.
“We stopped doing the things offensively that were working for us,” coach Sidney Lowe said. “We took some bad shots, and up until that point we had been moving the ball pretty well. Then we started holding the ball and just made some bad decisions.”
N.C. State leading scorer Tracy Smith had 19 points against Maryland and is averaging 17.7 on 50.0 percent shooting in his last three games. The senior forward was averaging 9.0 points on 34.4 percent shooting in his previous three, including a 12-point performance at North Carolina.