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Off the cuff: UNC color commentator Eric Montross said of NC State, "this team is not playing for their coach." A late first half run did seem to take the wind out of the Wolfpack players.

At one point in the second half, once the game was out of hand, it seemed that the Pack players were just letting Carolina players drive to the hoop.

Carolina, coming off the Duke loss, did play well and would almost certainly have defeated the Pack regardless. But a toll seems to have been taken on State.

For all the good news, it is disheartening that Kenny Williams hurt his knee and is out for the year. He had become an important cog in the wheel. Theo Pinson will probably start now and hopefully can stay healthy enough to help the Heels make an ACC and NCAA tournament run.

Tar Heels 97, NC State 83
Heels kick rival Pack when they're down

With rumors swirling about the possible firing of the NC State basketball coach, North Carolina's visit to Raleigh could have gone either way. Let's just say it wasn't a win-one-for-the-Gipper moment as the Tar Heels rolled to a 97-73 victory. (2/15)

As Carolina was streaking out to a 27-10 lead early, there were some boos from the restless Wolfpack fans. "We played well early and took the crowd out of it," UNC coach Roy Williams said.

But behind Dennis Smith, who finished with 27 points, the Wolfpack got back into it late in the first half, trailing by just six.

But a UNC 10-2 run, highlighted by a Luke Maye dunk and threes by Joel Berry and Justin Jackson, pushed the Heels out to a 14-point margin, 51-37, at the half.

"That little run right before the half was good for us," Coach Williams said, adding that Maye was a big contributor, playing more minutes due to Isaiah Hicks' foul trouble.

Maye, a sophomore, finished with a career-high 13 points and seven rebounds.

The inside men had their biggest production of the season with 60 points in the paint, including 27 second-chance points. It wasn't just the big guys who did the damage in the paint either as Theo Pinson, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson got inside for buckets.

"Getting the ball inside and scoring was the biggest factor in the game," Coach Williams said.

Five Tar Heels scored in double figures. Berry led the way with 18 points, while Kennedy Meeks followed with 17. Jackson, who was cold from outside, nevertheless managed 14 points. After Maye's 13 points, Pinson scored 12 on a six of eight shooting night.

It was Pinson's passing that got the Heels going to start the second half. A nifty assist to Hicks in the first minute set the tone for the second half. Carolina scored on three of its first four possessions of the second half and State never challenged again.

An 8-1 run midway through the second half moved the lead north of 20 points. A Maye three ball started the run. Then Berry drained a three and followed that with a steal and a layup to put the Heels in command, 72-49.

The lead got as high as 29 late in the game before the Heels settled for a 24-point win.

For all the good news, the Tar Heels learned before the game that a knee injury to Kenny Williams at practice Tuesday will likely keep the sophomore sidelined the rest of the season. He had made 22 starts this season and was coming on as a reliable perimeter defender and outside scorer.

Coach Williams said Pinson, who himself was out with an injury early in the season, and Nate Britt must step up to make up for Williams' absence.

NC State coach Mark Gottfried refused to discuss rumors that he would be fired at the end of the season. He said he only wanted to talk about the game.

"They answered everything and played better," Gottfried said. "You have to give those guys credit."

The Tar Heels move to 22-5 and 10-3 in the ACC, a game ahead of Florida State and Louisville, while the Wolfpack drops to 14-13 and 3-11.

Carolina tries to keep things going against Virginia at home Saturday night.

Box Score

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