North Carolina continues to play close games. North Carolina State just needs to play.
The teams are slated for a rematch Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C., where the host Tar Heels are unbeaten this season.
NC State (6-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), though, hasn't played since Jan.13 because of COVID-19 issues. Two games since then were postponed, so the Wolfpack's most-recent outing resulted in a 105-73 setback at Florida State.
North Carolina (9-5, 4-3) has played seven consecutive ACC games decided by seven points or less for the first time in program history. One of those was a 79-76 loss to NC State on Dec. 22 in Raleigh, N.C.
"As a team [we] haven't put together a game where everybody has played great," Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot said. "It's always somebody is in foul trouble, somebody is not playing good. I feel like once we can get it to where everybody is playing good we can be a really good team."
The Tar Heels haven't lost consecutive games to NC State since 2002-03 -- the season before Roy Williams became coach. With Williams as coach, North Carolina is 32-5 vs. NC State.
North Carolina has won four of its past five games, so most of the recent narrow margins have favored the Tar Heels.
NC State holds a three-game losing streak, and the team's practice time was reduced because of the COVID-19 pause.
"It has been a little frustrating, but who am I to get frustrated with what we have going on around the country," NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. "I pray for everybody that's going through some of this stuff."
The time off might have given Braxton Beverly and Manny Bates a chance to recover from injuries.
"I'm hopeful for both of those guys," Keatts said. "I would say Braxton's a little bit more ahead than Manny."
For the Tar Heels, Caleb Love scored 20 points Wednesday night against visiting Wake Forest -- notable because it was only the second time this season a North Carolina player reached the 20-point mark in a game.
"He's working at it and just a tremendous young man," Williams said. "I hope he feels good about the way he played."
The Tar Heels scored a season-high 24 points off turnovers in defeating Wake Forest 80-73. North Carolina has faced numerous double-digit deficits in first halves this season, including in the game at NC State.
For the season, the Tar Heels have been outscored by 22 points in first halves and have held the upper hand by 76 total points in the second halves.
North Carolina's four conference victories have come against teams with a combined 5-20 record in ACC play.
--Field Level Media