North Carolina has struggled with holding on to sizable leads in its past two games.
The 19th-ranked Tar Heels might not have that problem if they get ahead early with last-place Wake Forest visiting the Dean E. Smith Center on Tuesday night.
North Carolina (18-6, 8-2 ACC) looked like it might earn a season-high sixth straight win Wednesday night when it led archrival Duke by 14 at the half. The Tar Heels, though, were outscored 50-30 over the final 20 minutes of a 79-73 loss.
They bounced back with a 64-62 win at Clemson on Saturday but only after blowing an early 11-point lead.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I was thinking about the game on Wednesday,” forward John Henson said. “But we fought back this time. We kept our composure. I think that’s just a lesson we learned from the Duke game.”
Henson recorded his fourth double-double in five games and third in a row Saturday with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Harrison Barnes had a team-best 20 points and Kendall Marshall added a career-high 18.
Similar efforts from all three players Tuesday might prove more than enough to handle the woeful Demon Deacons (8-17, 1-9).
Wake Forest has dropped 13 of 15 in its first season under Jeff Bzdelik and lost four straight, one shy of matching its longest skid of the season. The Demon Deacons have also dropped eight in a row on the road, but playing at home this past week wasn’t any easier.
After falling by a point to Miami on Wednesday night, the Demon Deacons were blown out by rival North Carolina State 80-55 on Sunday. Leading scorer Travis McKie was the only player in double figures with 15 points as Wake Forest was outshot 55.9 to 38.9 percent.
“We know we are much better than what we showed today, but that is meaningless at this point,” Bzdelik said. “And like this whole season has been, it’s been a learning experience. I am confident that our young players will learn from this experience here.”
The Demon Deacons have won two of three over the Tar Heels, including an 82-69 upset in Chapel Hill last season, but could have trouble building on that success.
Wake Forest is allowing a league-worst 76.9 points per game, while the Tar Heels are among the ACC’s top scoring teams with 78.3 a contest. Barnes is averaging 19.4 points - 6.0 more than his season mark - over his last five games and has scored at least 20 three times over that span.
Henson is averaging 14.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in his last five games. He nearly had a double-double in last season’s 77-68 victory at Wake Forest with nine points and 12 rebounds, while Leslie McDonald scored a then-career high 16 points off the bench.
North Carolina, searching for its 14th consecutive home win, leads the series 152-65.
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