RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Jarkel Joiner took over for No. 23 North Carolina State during a critical second-half stretch, matching his season high with 29 points to lead the Wolfpack past rival North Carolina 77-69 on Sunday.
Joiner had 20 of his points after the break for the Wolfpack (21-7, 11-6 Atlantic Coast Conference). That included an impressive flurry in a tight game that finally gave N.C. State some breathing room.
DJ Burns Jr. added 14 of his 18 points after halftime for N.C. State, which shot 64.5% in the second half and avenged last month’s loss on the road.
Caleb Love scored 20 points to lead the Tar Heels (16-11, 8-8), who continued a February crash that has put their NCAA Tournament chances in growing jeopardy. UNC lost for the fifth time in six games this month after shooting just 35.5%, a performance that a dominating rebounding effort (48-34) couldn’t offset.
UNC’s home win in January marked their 36th in 41 meetings with a rival located about a 30-minute drive away. The rematch featured two teams locked all afternoon in a tight battle in front of a boisterous and testy crowd.
Joiner started the final push that allowed them to unleash a parting and victorious helping of spite on the Tar Heels, too.
His driving scooping reverse layup banked in for a 64-60 lead, then he buried a transition 3 from right in front of the Wolfpack bench — which pushed N.C. State to a 67-60 lead with 4:47 left, the largest lead by any team to that point.
But it only grew from there, with Joiner following a bit later with a drive and stepback jumper against Caleb Love that pushed the lead to nine. And eventually, the Wolfpack went up 75-63 when Ernest Ross ran down a long pass ahead and saved it behind him to a trailing Casey Morsell for a layup that elevated the ear-ringing noise even more with only 89 seconds left.
The Tar Heels called timeout, and N.C. State players began to celebrate, with Terquavion Smith walking near the baseline to motion for more noise from courtside fans. And Burns stood a few feet away, popping the front of his jersey to the roaring fans in the end zone.
UNC: The Tar Heels have gone from preseason No. 1 in the AP Top 25 to a team scrapping for an NCAA bid. They entered Sunday with an 0-8 record in Quadrant 1 games, the top-tier type to top a postseason resume. This one could’ve helped, but it instead ended with Wolfpack fans chanting at them in the final seconds: “NIT! NIT!”
N.C. State: Kevin Keatts’ team — and program — had seen a resurgence this year that included cracking the AP Top 25 for the first time in four years. That has put the Wolfpack in contention to reach the NCAAs for the first time since his first season in 2018. Sunday was about staying on that track and, of course, beating a rival that has largely owned the series of late. And Joiner helped ensure the Wolfpack did just that.
UNC: At Notre Dame on Wednesday.
N.C. State: Hosting Wake Forest on Wednesday.