North Carolina will close out a two-game homestand on Saturday, welcoming NC State to town for a rivalry matchup in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels improved to 5-3 in ACC play on Tuesday and have the opportunity to add a Quad One win to the resume against the Wolfpack.
NC State enters the contest at 15-4 overall and tied with North Carolina for sixth place in the ACC.
While the Tar Heels have the league’s No. 1 offense with 79.6 points per game, the Wolfpack are second with 79.5 points per contest.
A dynamic backcourt of Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner highlights their offensive explosiveness. Smith (19.1 points) leads the league in scoring, while Joiner (16.2 points) provides another scoring threat at all three levels.
Both guards average north of 34 minutes per game and will be relied on to produce on offense.
Virginia transfer Casey Morsell (12.9 points) paces the conference from beyond the arc, shooting 44.3 percent from three-point range.
A matchup to watch will be between big man D.J. Burns and Preseason ACC Player of the Year Armando Bacot. With the absence of Dusan Mahorcic, Burns has stepped into the starting lineup for NC State and recorded double figure scoring outings in four consecutive games.
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As Burns continues his stint in the starting five, it is all about staying out of foul trouble and managing the fast pace contest.
NC State has trouble keeping their opponents off of the line, as they have attempted 358 free throws, while the Wolfpack have made just 250.
The opposite is true for the Tar Heels, who with their presence down low have the advantage at the charity stripe. North Carolina has made 336 free throws, while their opponents have attempted just 304. (Dadgum Box Scores)
For North Carolina, playing through Bacot is once again a key to victory. Bacot can break the UNC double-double record and needs 17 rebounds to set the record for most ever in a Tar Heel uniform.
Not counting the Virginia game in which he left less than two minutes in, Bacot has recorded 20 or more points in seven of his last nine games.
Junior guard R.J. Davis has improved his shooting as of late, connecting on 16 of his 28 three-point attempts over the last five games. Davis made multiple three-point field goals in six of his last seven games and has scored in double figures in eight consecutive contests.
Cutting down on turnovers has been a big part of his turnaround with one turnover or less in four of the last five games. The same ball security will be needed against the Wolfpack, as they lead the conference with a +4 turnover margin.
As the Tar Heels continue to get healthy and earn production from their bench, Saturday serves as an important test for how the final month and a half of the regular season will go.
North Carolina is 9-0 at home this season and has won 35 of the last 40 games in the series.