RALEIGH--It took Carolina six years and 13 wins to build an impressive winning streak against NC State. When the Pack last claimed a win over the Tar Heels, George W. Bush was President, Twitter essentially didn't exist, and the first iPhone was still four months away from release.
That's how long the Tar Heels had spent building a half-decade of dominance against the Wolfpack. It took the visitors roughly 4:46 of clock time to play their way out of Saturday's trip to Raleigh.
The Tar Heels were coming off an 8-0 run, trailed just 22-18, and had the ball. The Wolfpack was on a five-minute scoring drought and was having trouble generating offense. The next ten Tar Heel possessions went like this (start your stopwatch here):
A missed Reggie Bullock three-pointer, a pretty good shot. NC State scored nine seconds after getting the rebound.
A missed James Michael McAdoo jumper from the wing that did not hit the rim. NC State scored ten seconds after getting the rebound, as the Tar Heels lost track of preseason ACC Player of the Year and gave up a ferocious dunk and a three-point play.
A missed Marcus Paige three-pointer. NC State scored eight seconds after getting the rebound.
A Brice Johnson dunk on a lob.
A Johnson miss on a post up. NC State scored six seconds after getting the rebound.
A Johnson miss on a post-up. NC State scored on an offensive rebound after Scott Wood missed a three-pointer that would've set PNC Arena ablaze.
A pair of Johnson misses, including one that was a dunk. NC State's Lorenzo Brown drove all the way to the rim and was fouled six seconds after the Wolfpack got the rebound. Brown made both free throws.
A Paige miss on dribble penetration. NC State scored four seconds after getting the rebound.
A J.P. Tokoto airballed three-pointer. NC State scored five seconds after getting the rebound.
A turnover, followed by NC State scoring four seconds after getting the steal.
Stop your stopwatch here, with the Wolfpack now holding a 42-20 lead. Let me do you a favor and tell you that I've already put the timer on it, so you don't have to go back and suffer through it again (you're welcome). It took exactly eight minutes and 10 seconds of real time for State to build a lead they would never relinquish, despite Carolina's best late efforts. The Pack actually had the ball in its hands for 72 seconds to make the game-changing run.
It took just two minutes and 44 seconds of his postgame press conference for a disgusted Roy Williams to dissect it. Here are two things the Tar Heel head coach doesn't like: 1. Losing to NC State (he doesn't have much practice). 2. Being outrun by a team at his own game.
"In my opinion, there's not a lot I can say," Williams said. "It was a butt kicking, is what it was. We tried to emphasize sprinting back on defense. That's what we talked about yesterday and today and tried to work on. In the first half, they had 20 fast break points and we had zero, so I didn't do a very good job of coaching and getting our guys ready."
You think maybe the 20-0 stat was mentioned in the Tar Heel locker room at halftime? Although none of them could have heard Williams's postgame press conference, four separate Tar Heel players separately volunteered the stat as the key to the game.
"Coach was fired up," Dexter Strickland said of the halftime scene in the UNC locker room.
It sounds like a defensive breakdown, right? Players not getting back on defense and allowing Wolfpack players a clear path to the hoop. Well, yes, that was an issue. But the Tar Heels also noticed an offensive problem that led to the defensive struggles.
"We took some contested jump shots without changing sides of the floor," Paige said. "That's our main problem, and we tend to do that more often than we should."
"Our shot selection catered to them getting out and filling the lanes," said McAdoo.
They're right. Look back at those ten possessions and you'll find an awful lot of jumpers, and eight of the ten shots--including the last eight in a row--were hoisted by freshmen who seemed a little rattled as the frenzy of the sellout crowd began to crescendo.
"Part of it was that we saw them lay the ball in with 31 seconds still on the shot clock," Paige said. "When that happens, you want to come back and try to score as quickly as possible. That's human nature. We have to stick with our principles, because we saw tonight that playing that way will put you in an even deeper hole."
Not that they needed (or wanted) it, but it was a vivid reminder that there is a tiny margin for error in the ACC against good teams.
Take a possession off, you'll probably give up a basket. Take two possessions off, the opponent is about to go on a run. Take off three possessions? You're on the way to digging a hole that might be too deep to claw back out.
By the time the first half carnage was over, NC State had gone on a 23-4 run. It rendered insignificant--at least to the head coach--Carolina's second-half rally. "I don't care about learning experiences," he said. "Learning experiences are for babies...I'm not into moral victories. We stunk."
Carolina will see NC State again in approximately a month, and there's not much doubt what they'll talk about before that game-the same thing they emphasized before this one.
"They put on a clinic of running the floor," Paige said. "They put on a clinic of the way that we know we're supposed to play."