GAME NOTES: The red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels turn their attention to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons for an Atlantic Coast Conference tilt at the Smith Center.
North Carolina has hardly resembled the team that began ACC play 0-3, as it has now reeled off eight straight wins. None of those wins were bigger than Thursday night, when the Tar Heels notched a 74-66 victory over bitter rival and fifth-ranked Duke. Following this tilt, they'll hit the road for three of their final four games, including the regular-season finale at Duke.
Wake Forest has lost each of its last six outings, including Tuesday's 71-60 setback at Maryland. That outcome dropped the Demon Deacons to 2-9 outside of Winston-Salem this season. They'll return home for three straight before closing out the regular season at Miami.
UNC holds a commanding 155-66 lead in the all-time series, although the Demon Deacons claimed a 73-67 victory when these teams met up on their home floor on Jan. 5.
Wake hung around with Maryland for a while Tuesday's contest, but the Terrapins went on an 8-0 run early in the second half to pull away. That was enough to fend off a Demon Deacons team that committed 18 turnovers and shot just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc (.200) and 9-of-20 at the charity stripe (.450). Travis McKie led the way with 16 points but shot just 6-of-15 from the floor. Devin Thomas racked up 11 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, while Codi Miller-McIntyre finished with 12 points and six assists. Miller-McIntyre is the team's leading scorer on the season with 14.1 ppg. McKie is next in line with 11.1 ppg to go along with 4.3 rpg, followed by Thomas with 11.0 ppg and a team-best 8.0 rpg.
UNC utilized its size advantage to a 43-30 rebounding edge over Duke. The Tar Heels also held a key 20-7 scoring advantage at the foul line, as they consistently attacked the rim while the Blue Devils relied -- unsuccessfully -- on 3-pointers (5-of-22). Senior Leslie McDonald shot 9-of-12 from the floor and led all scorers with a season-high 21 points for the Tar Heels, who overcame an 11-point deficit in the second half. Backcourt mate Marcus Paige scored all 13 of his points in the second half, including a pair of key buckets in the final two minutes. Down low, James Michael McAdoo recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards. Paige leads the way with 17.0 ppg on the season and has knocked down 60 3-pointers (.380). McAdoo is averaging 14.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per tilt.
It is certainly better late than never for the Tar Heels to get hot, although they do also boast a couple of other victories this season against teams ranked in the top-five at the time (Michigan State, Louisville), along with another win over 11th-ranked Kentucky in December. Look for UNC to make it nine in a row with another win here.
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