CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The expectations start to rise as North Carolina (10-5, 5-3) defeats North Carolina State (6-5, 2-4). The Wolfpack were looking for their first sweep against the Heels in 18 years, the first during Roy Williams era, but fell short after the first time 14 years, four freshmen have scored in double digits, Day'Ron Sharpe 16, Caleb Love 15, Anthony Harris 10 and RJ Davis, 10.
Double-digit scoring wasn't the only high achievement for the Heels Saturday afternoon. For the first time this season, North Carolina shot above 50% and scored a season-high of 86 points. Whenever a Williams' team scores 80 or better, they have a 90% win rate. On Friday afternoon, Williams spoke on his disapproval of teaching effort, but the freshmen led team met his inquiries with a strong response and delivered their best performance of the season,
"I told him one time out; we've had 60 practices and had 14 games, so I think there should no longer be freshmen. They've played a ton of games and practices, but they're still going to screw it up and make mistakes that freshmen make, but I love our freshmen. It's as good as classes I've ever brought into my life.
The tough thing for our freshmen is that I expect much more of them because I think we have that ability. We just got to get our brain and heart involved and not just our ability."
But it's not just Williams who seeks better from this team; sophomore Armando Bacot is yet to be satisfied with North Carolina's ten wins. There's room for improvement, and the surface has barely been scratched.
"We still haven't gotten everybody to play good at the same time nor played a complete game. We had a lot of turnovers; the bigs gave up a few offensive rebounds. It's still a lot of strides we can make. I will say we are getting better every day and just staying in the lab; everybody wants to get better. We want to be that team, and I really do think we can be that team."
Bacot led UNC in scoring with 17 points for the fifth time this season. He was 8 for 12 from the floor and is 16 for 22 in the last two games.
UNC vs. NCSU is a critical matchup for the Heels and seemingly becoming more so than Duke. Fans often like to refer to State as the "little brother," it seems as though the staff and players take the matchup pretty serious even Love recognized the importance of beating the Wolfpack at home.
"I didn't want to lose that game, especially for Coach," Love said. "I knew how much it meant to him, so I went out there and played my hardest."
The Tar Heels lead the series, 161-79, winning 33 of the last 38 games against the Wolfpack, and as a coach, Williams is 38-5 against N.C. State. As aforementioned, State has yet to sweep UNC during the Williams era.
Up next, North Carolina faces a tough Pitt at home on Tuesday at 7 pm. Pitt is coming off a close loss to Wake Forest, 76-75. Pitt's Justin Champagne finished the game with 17 points, but don't let a loss to the Demon Deacons convince you of the ease of beating this team. Pitt comes inexperienced and confident in their position in the ACC; with only three losses this season and a highly regarded Champagne, UNC will have to bring more than just 40% to knock off the Panthers.
And they're capable of being that team; it's time to execute.