Got to sit on the spectacle that is NC State versus Carolina basketball rivalry and let’s just say the crowd was ready to go. The RBC Center was red’ed out outside of some small specks of Carolina blue. Cardboard signs were placed on pretty much every seat imploring spectators to root for the home team. And the dance squad was distributing bags of balloons to the student section for foul shot distraction. The Wolfpack was in the house and ready for the boys in Carolina blue!
Carolina got off to a great start, jumping out ahead quickly which was unusual. Ran the lead to about 12 points before NC State clawed its way back into the game. Carolina has great length inside, it’s not just blocks but all the re-directed shots. NC State bigs were double and triple-pumping their shots to get a reaction from Zeller and Henson. State played a decent transition game on defense to limit Carolina opportunities and would push the ball from time to time on offense for easy buckets.
Tight and aggressive zone defense by State in the first half was pretty effective but hot outside shooting from Marshall and Henson opened things up. State moved back and forth from zone defense to man-man trying to find the right combination to slow down the Carolina offense. The crowd was totally into the game waving their balloons and super-sized cut-outs of famous celebrities which was pretty damn funny. The half ended with Carolina hanging on to a five point lead. And out comes the dance team and cheerleading squad!
In the second half, State worked their way back again, into the game. They have a decent half-court offense and the guys inside have some heft. Carolina made a concerted effort to get the ball into Zeller’s hands. Defense was still good on Zeller with lots of hand-checking and ball swipes but he started getting to the foul-line more. Carolina started to open up its lead again to nearly 20 in the third quarter. State just did not have enough effective big man offense or outside shooting to handle Carolina’s interior defense. But overall a very solid game from the boys in red, especially given their first-year coach, Gottfried. With five minutes left State fans were heading home early as was I, full of turkey leg and popcorn.
I had a lot of fun at the game, just missed a t-shirt toss that slipped through my fingers and never felt too badly about wearing Carolina gear on their home-court. The fans were passionate and on the refs which is sort of home-team tradition. My overall takeaway is that UNC is very talented but limited in terms of bench depth. They need McAdoo to step up his nervous freshman game to go deep into the NCAA tournament. And they still need to pick up their half-court game, both offensively and defensively. But yeah, great game and can’t wait for the next one!