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No. 5 UNC, NC State each head into clash on a roll

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As neighboring rivals with a long history of important basketball clashes, No. 7 North Carolina and North Carolina State each enter this week with growing momentum.

Their first get-together of the season comes Wednesday night in Raleigh, N.C.

North Carolina and NC State, both 11-3 overall and 3-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, are two of three teams in the ACC without a conference setback.

“We’re proud,” NC State coach Kevin Keatts said. “You look at the way we’ve done it so far, it has been really good. We want to build on that.”

North Carolina has handled business on the road, winning its past two games at Pitt and then-No. 16 Clemson on Saturday. The Tar Heels want to make it three straight on the road and five in a row overall.

“All I’ve known since being alive is the ACC, I just feel like it’s the best conference in college basketball and going on the road is just always a battle,” Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said.

There’s a familiarity between the teams and lots of respect going around this week.

“When you look at the numbers, they’re playing really well,” Keatts said. “It’s hard to believe that RJ Davis is playing his best basketball because he has played well every year.”

Davis, a guard, leads the ACC in scoring with 20.6 points per game.

NC State might have guard Jayden Taylor, a transfer from Butler, handle key defensive assignments.

“Now that we’re into January and ACC play, he’s learned how to play on both ends of the floor,” Keatts said. “He can really make it tough for you. He has got great size. He anticipates well. He can turn to you as we get up and down the court. He really fits into what we’re trying to do defensively.”

North Carolina has multiple sources of offense.

“So when RJ isn’t scoring 20, we have other guys stepping up at the right time,” Davis said.

While veterans such as Davis and Armando Bacot, who’s tops in the ACC in rebounding with 11.1 boards per outing to go with 14.9 points, will command a lot of the Wolfpack’s attention, Tar Heels freshman guard Elliot Cadeau could make a big impact in his first game against NC State. Keatts said it Cadeau is not easily rattled.

“When you see freshmen, the one thing that they don’t do is they don’t take care of basketball,” Keatts said. “That’s not the case in his situation. He’s playing really good basketball. What’s happened is because he’s playing so well, it’s allowed RJ to be able to go and be what he is — a natural scorer.”

The Tar Heels have a spot in the national rankings based on, in part, a rigorous schedule. Part of the Wolfpack’s success comes from preventing a loss from turning into a slump.

Now NC State is seeking a breakthrough result.

“The biggest thing for us is staying the course and doing the things that we do well,” Keatts said.

–Field Level Media

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