Noel called State fans “the worst ever,” during a meeting with the media on Tuesday. But by the time he walked off the RBC Center court victorious late Wednesday night, there was only a handful of them still hanging around.
“They did their usual cussing us out and saying 'Go to H--l, Carolina; all that type stuff. But it was a lot better at the end of the game than it was at the beginning--for us, anyway,” Noel, who also pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds, said after the game.
With the win, UNC (18-6, 9-4 ACC) moved into a virtual tie for second-place with State (21-6, 10-4). Although the Wolfpack has played one more conference game at this point, Carolina will have the tiebreaker advantage if necessary for tournament seedings by way of its sweep of the season series.
The Tar Heels have now won six straight over State and lead the all-time tally 134-74.
Noel was 10-for-14 from the floor, including 3-for-6 from three-point range and 2-for-4 from the free throw line. His previous scoring high was 21 versus DePaul in 2003.
Reyshawn Terry added 20 points, Tyler Hansbrough finished with 17 and Wes Miller chipped in 15 as four Tar Heels scored in double figures. Miller was a scorching 5-for-8 from beyond the arc.
“It was a fantastic performance for us,” Roy Williams said. “I think it was our best basketball of the year. We were very focused tonight. We talked about being focused for 40 minutes and not digging ourselves a hole early like we did the last couple of games.
“David Noel was sensational. That’s as well as he’s played.”
As a team, Carolina shot 54 percent while holding State to 44 percent. The Wolfpack, which connected on 6-of-15 treys in the first half, went 0-for-10 from three-point range in the final period.
UNC dominated the battle on the boards, 43-26.
“Our rebounding was basically non-existent tonight, and I’m very disappointed in the way we played,” said Herb Sendek, who celebrated his birthday with a home loss to the Tar Heels.
And taking much better care of the basketball these days, the Tar Heels turned the ball over just six times, while dishing out 24 assists. It was the fewest turnovers by a UNC team since March 13, 1997.
“N.C. State is not going to go 0-for-10 from three-point range very often,” Williams said. “We try to put pressure on the ball. We talked a lot about guarding the ball. But I think we were fortunate because State was due (for an off-night from three-point range). They shot something like 60 percent from outside in their last three games, and that was bound to even out sooner or later.”
Noel and Terry combined for 30 first half points, as the Tar Heels shot 52 percent from the floor and committed just two turnovers to take a 46-34 lead at intermission. After the lead had changed seven times, UNC executed a 25-13 run to close out the half.
Carolina extended its lead to as many as 16 points early in the second half. And when State pulled within nine points, Noel answered with another three to put Carolina back up 63-51 with 12:46 to play.
Six straight points by Marcus Ginyard helped stoke Carolina’s lead to 74-56 with 7:56 remaining to the hushed tune of 18,436 unusually quiet fans in attendance. By the time the Tar Heels enjoyed their largest lead of 24 points moments later, it seemed only the sound of fumbling car keys could be heard in the rapidly emptying arena.
“We were out-played, out-coached, and thoroughly whipped by a very good North Carolina team tonight,” Sendek said.
The Tar Heels return to action Sunday at home versus Maryland.