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February 20, 2008

NC State out to prove point

The memory is still fresh from the first North Carolina State at North Carolina game.

UNC went on a devastating 34-4 run over the last 14:48 of the first half for an eventual 93-62 victory at the Dean E. Smith Center on Jan. 12.

Whatever could go wrong, went wrong. Inside shots were missed, guards turned the ball over and were visibly shaken by the Tar Heels' pressure and the Wolfpack were simply out-classed at nearly every position.

Over 5 1/2 weeks later, the two teams are still going in different directions. NC State is 15-10 overall and 4-7 in the ACC and basically have to win four of the last five ACC games to have a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. Sitting in the Wolfpack's way are the Tar Heels once again.

NC State hosts UNC at 7 p.m. tonight at the RBC Center in Raleigh. In a season consistent at being inconsistent, the Wolfpack players know it is now or never.

"We've had a sense of urgency since the beginning of the season," NC State freshman center J.J. HIckson said. "One of our team goals is the NCAA Tournament. Some people think it is looking slim right now, but I think we can bounce back from this loss [to Clemson] and get a couple wins and be good."

NC State has had other low points, but perhaps none like the first half against UNC. The Wolfpack made just 6 of 34 shots from the field, trailing 43-13 at halftime. NC State missed 18 straight shots during UNC's run.

"North Carolina in the first half, we just couldn't make a shot," said NC State shooting guard Courtney Fells, who had a team-high 16 points. "We had good shots inside and out. I think we are over that and I think we will have a better first half against them.

"We definitely need this win if we want any chance of making the NCAA Tournament. I think we'll be fully prepared and focused."

NC State defeated UNC 83-79 on Feb. 3, 2007, at the RBC Center thanks to 21 points from Fells, 17 from Ben McCauley, 16 from Gavin Grant and 15 points and 11 rebounds from Brandon Costner. All four leading scorers return.

"We have to have this game," Grant said. "A win over a top five team like Carolina or Duke will look good. We probably need to win all five to get where we want to go.

"We have them over here, so it's a whole another story. We'll definitely give them a game."

North Carolina preview

NC State 2007-2008 roster

North Carolina roster

North Carolina schedule/results

Game facts

ACC - No. 3 North Carolina (24-2, 9-2) at North Carolina State (15-10, 4-7 ACC)

Game time: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. - RBC Center, Raleigh, N.C.

Television: ESPN

Probable starters

NC State

PG - 10 Javi Gonzalez (6-0, Fr., 3.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SG - 4 Courtney Fells (6-5, Jr., 11.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF - 11 Gavin Grant (6-8, Sr., 14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg)
PF - 34 Ben McCauley (6-10, Jr., 6.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 apg)
C - 1 J.J. Hickson (6-9, Fr., 15.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.6 bpg)

North Carolina

PG - 11 Quentin Thomas (6-3, Sr., 2.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG - 22 Wayne Ellington (6-4, Soph., 16.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF - 1 Marcus Ginyard (6-5, Jr., 7.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.8 apg)
PF - 21 Deon Thompson (6-8, Soph., 9.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
C - 50 Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, Jr., 22.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 0.8 apg)

Scouting North Carolina

Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

Nickname: Tar Heels

2006-2007 record: 31-7 overall, 11-5 ACC

2007 postseason: Lost 96-84 to Georgetown in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament

Coach: Roy Williams, 130-32 in five years at North Carolina, 548-133 overall in 20 years

The all-time series with NC State: UNC leads 137-75

Last meeting: UNC won 93-62 on Jan. 12, 2008, at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill


North Carolina: Starting point guard Ty Lawson is unlikely to play because of a serious ankle sprain, Thompson has battled a hyper-extended knee and Danny Green has been slowed by the flu ... Ellington is 11 of 22 from 3-point range over the last three games. He was 7 of 30 in the seven prior games ... Thomas has 32 assists in the last five games, and had a career-high seven rebounds, as well as seven assists in the blowout win over Virginia Tech on Saturday.

NC State: The Wolfpack are 2-4 in games against ranked foes, including wins over Villanova and Miami, who were both ranked at the time they played them ... Fells, who was questionable to play in the last meeting against UNC, led NC State with 16 points on 7 of 14 shooting in the blowout ... NC State has been out-rebounded in eight of 11 ACC games despite being one of the tallest teams in the conference.

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