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UNC puts on show worthy of legends in audience, pounds NC State

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North Carolina guard Caleb Love celebrates during the Tar Heels’ defeat of N.C. State on Saturday at the Smith Center.

North Carolina guard Caleb Love celebrates during the Tar Heels’ defeat of N.C. State on Saturday at the Smith Center.

CHAPEL HILL — Caleb Love connected on his first 3-pointer during the opening minutes of Saturday afternoon’s game and wheeled around, making eye contact with a certain unmistakable someone.

There was Michael Jordan, looking back in approval.

“I looked right at him,” Love said. “It wasn’t intentional, but I looked at him, and we kind of made eye contact. It’s just crazy to see him there. He’s the greatest to ever play this game. To see him sitting sideline and watching us playing well, it’s just inspirational.”

North Carolina poured it on and then some, raining a barrage of buckets from long distance and racing past rival North Carolina State 100-80 in an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball romp at the Smith Center.

With a special halftime ceremony and new banner in the rafters honoring legendary coach Roy Williams, with members of the 1982 NCAA title team holding a reunion to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their magical championship season, the current Tar Heels built a 35-point lead while putting on a performance to meet the moment.

Love pumped in 21 points and Armando Bacot supplied 18 points and 13 rebounds, as North Carolina threatened a school record by nailing a season-best 15 successful 3-pointers and piling up a season-high scoring output.

It became a show worthy of the Carolina Family luminaries in the audience — namely the incomparable Jordan — and an exceedingly appropriate way to salute Williams, who delighted in defeating the Wolfpack across the last 18 years.

RJ Davis and Brady Manek contributed 17 points apiece. This was supposed to be the end of an energy cycle for the Tar Heels, their fourth game in eight days. But North Carolina (15-6 overall, 7-3 ACC) unleashed domination and produced its fifth-most efficient effort on offense across the last four seasons.

“That’s an unreal experience,” said Manek, the graduate transfer from Oklahoma. “Definitely one of the reasons that pulled me here, a game like that. And Michael being here made it 30 times better.”

Three days after struggling to dispatch Boston College in a 58-47 slog, the Tar Heels had ripped off 56 points, splashed in 10 made 3-pointers and fashioned a 25-point lead by halftime here Saturday.

N.C. State couldn’t keep up. Terquavion Smith’s 34 points and Jericole Hellems’ 25 points topped the Wolfpack (10-12, 3-8). Dereon Seabron, the No. 3 scorer in the ACC, arrived averaging 19.1 points per game and stumbled to a season-low two points, the first time he hasn’t reached double figures this season.

This report will be updated with more information and comments.

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Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at asmith@thetimesnews.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC basketball pounds NC State while honoring Roy Williams with banner

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