CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina jumped all over North Carolina State from the start, building a lead that kept growing to a shockingly lopsided finish and the 14th-ranked Tar Heels’ biggest scoring output in the longtime rivalry.
Justin Jackson scored 21 points and the Tar Heels ran off a 20-0 first-half spurt to blow Sunday’s game open and beat the Wolfpack 107-56.
“Well,” coach Roy Williams said, “we were pretty doggone good.”
Joel Berry II added 19 points for the Tar Heels (14-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who beat the Wolfpack for the 20th time in 22 games in a game postponed from Saturday night because of snow and ice.
The Tar Heels jumped to a 26-4 lead, pushed that to 56-23 by halftime on Jackson’s 3-pointer just before the horn and had more than doubled the Wolfpack’s point total with roughly 5 minutes left.
And after what Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried called a “perfect storm” of his team’s wobbly start and UNC’s aggressive edge, N.C. State (12-4, 1-2) ended up with the second-worst loss in program history – trailing only a 62-10 loss to UNC in the 1920-21 season.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had a team shoot as many airballs and miss foul shots and turn the ball over the way we did,” Gottfried said.
“I think at the end of the day, in the first half, it was just them playing phenomenally well and us obviously playing very poorly. … But I think we all watched it, and that was really a stinker on our part.”
N.C. State came in with momentum after blowing out No. 21 Virginia Tech behind a triple-double from star freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. But Smith got in quick foul trouble Sunday, while the Wolfpack committed a bevy of turnovers that fueled the Tar Heels’ attack.
As for UNC, the school said it was the program’s biggest margin of victory in an ACC game since the league’s formation in 1953, surpassing a 48-point win against Florida State during the 1997-98 season.
“I knew if we played with the type of intensity we’re supposed to that we can do some big things,” Jackson said. “I think part of it was also we caught them kind of on a rougher day for them offensively. With them combined with how hard we really played, it just turned out really well for us.”
N.C. State: It was a jarringly bad performance for the Wolfpack, who never responded to UNC’s aggressive start. N.C. State had more turnovers (15) than baskets (nine) in the first half and finished with 26 turnovers. And Smith – a likely one-and-done prospect who can take over games – never found any rhythm, finishing with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting with six turnovers on an all-around miserable afternoon in Chapel Hill.
“They’re the home team – we had to bring our own energy and we didn’t do that,” Smith said. “That killed us.”
UNC: The Tar Heels played to their strength as a veteran team coming off a run to the NCAA title game. UNC shot 49 percent, made 12 of 27 3-pointers and scored 37 points off turnovers. And they got versatile swingman Theo Pinson back from October foot surgery for a major roster addition early in ACC play.
BATTLE AT THE POINT
Berry got the edge in the battle with Smith at the point. While Smith picked up three fouls in the first 10 minutes, Berry made 6 of 10 shots with three 3-pointers, five rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes.
“I didn’t get caught up in the 1-on-1 matchup at all,” Berry said.
Pinson made his season debut to a standing ovation 13:47 left in the first half. He didn’t score but had five rebounds, five assists and four steals in 13 minutes.
N.C. State had as many turnovers (26) as made field goals and free throws (3 for 11) combined.
N.C. State: N.C. State visits Boston College on Wednesday.
UNC: The Tar Heels play another instate ACC opponent Wednesday, traveling to Wake Forest.