North Carolina State purged nearly six years of frustration against North Carolina at home Saturday night 91-83 and once again looked very deserving of being tabbed the preseason favorite in the ACC – at least until the final few minutes.
With point guard Lorenzo Brown making highlight reel plays left and right the Wolfpack ran to a 19-point halftime lead and pushed the lead to 28 in the second half but had to withstand a North Carolina second-half run to earn their first victory over the Tar Heels in 14 meetings. Combined with a win two weeks ago over Duke, it is the first time since 2003 N.C. State has beaten both its nearby rivals in the same season.
The Tar Heels looked dreadful at times but they deserve credit for fighting back and actually forcing N.C. State to make free throws down the stretch. Brown led all scorers with 20 points and dished 11 assists, including several gems in the first half that helped rev up the crowd and build momentum for the Wolfpack.
N.C. State didn't need any additional motivation in this one, but UNC senior Dexter Strickland provided some back in October in preseason interview when he said this to CBSSports.com: "They talk those guys up every single year, and we beat them every single year. They are the least of our worries. Beat us one year and then they can talk smack. Until then, you can't put them in the mix."
The Wolfpack looked like they might prove Strickland correct after losing to Maryland and Wake Forest following the big win over Duke, but they were stellar in the first 35 minutes against the Tar Heels.
It was the first win over North Carolina for N.C. State seniors, including Scott Wood, who offered this famous response a year ago when a reporter asked how it felt to have never beaten his rival to that point in his career.
“Has your wife ever cheated on you?” Wood asked the reporter? “That's probably how frustrating it is."
That frustration is gone now as N.C. State looks to establish consistency Tuesday against Virginia ahead of a big showdown at the top of the ACC next week with Miami. A rematch with Duke follows that.
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