Raleigh, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The red hot North Carolina Tar Heels continue their quest to move up the ACC standings, as they take on local rival NC State in a league bout Wednesday night at PNC Arena.
After a seven week absence from the Top 25, Roy Williams squad re-entered this week, thanks to a nine-game win streak, that has all but erased a poor 1-4 start to league play. The Tar Heels are coming off an impressive 105-72 rout of Wake Forest his past weekend to pick up their 20th win of the season. At 10-4 in league play, UNC holds down fourth place in the conference standings.
Mark Gottlieb's Wolfpack are a solid 17-10 on the season, but conference play has prove to be much more challenging than the non-league slate, with NC State at an even 7-7 in the ACC. The Wolfpack pulled even in the league with Saturday's 71-64 win at Virginia Tech.
North Carolina holds a 149-76 lead in this longstanding rivalry. The Tar Heels have won 15 of the last 16 meetings and are seeking the regular-season sweep after posting an 84-70 win in Chapel Hill on Feb. 1.
The Tar Heels have fought through adversity this season and come out better for it from a team standpoint. A dangerous offensive squad, UNC is averaging a solid 77.0 ppg on .463 shooting. The team also enjoys positives in both rebounding (+6.2) and turnover (+1.6) margins. Guard Marcus Paige has taken on a leadership role this season and has flourished as both a prolific scorer (16.9 ppg) and deft distributor (4.6 apg). James Michael McAdoo adds frontcourt balance with 14.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per outing. Leslie McDonald (11.3 ppg), Brice Johnson (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), J.P. Tokoto (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Kennedy Meeks (7.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) provide more than enough depth.
North Carolina was at its offensive best against Wake Forest this past weekend, erupting for 105 points, scoring 50+ points in both halves. The Tar Heels shot a sizzling 57.4 percent from the floor overall, including an impressive 11-of-15 from behind the arc. Six Tar Heels notched double figures in the balanced attack. McDonald led the way with 19 points. Meeks added 15, followed by Johnson (14 pts), Paige (13 pts), McAdoo (11 pts) and Tokoto (11 pts).
NC State lacks the scoring depth that UNC has, but the team's trump card is standout forward T.J. Warren. A favorite to earn ACC Player of the Year, Warren leads the conference and ranks fifth in the nation in scoring at 23.3 ppg. The 6-foot-8 sophomore also finds time to lead the team in rebounding (7.1 rpg) and steals (44). Ralston Turner is a distant second in the scoring column for NC State at 10.2 ppg. Anthony Barber (9.4 ppg) and Desmond Lee (9.3 ppg) are just under the double-digit mark.
Warren was at it again in the win over Virginia Tech, posting his sixth 30- point game of the season, finishing with 31 points, on 12-of-21 shooting. Kyle Washington added 13 points and Tyler Lewis doled out a game-high 11 assists in the win for NC State, which offset a poor performance from long range (4- of-24) by outscoring Virginia Tech 38-22 in the paint and adding 19 points off 17 Hokie turnovers.