Without getting into specifics, T.J. Warren summed up the general bleakness of N.C. State’s track record at North Carolina.

Asked about N.C. State’s last win in Chapel Hill, the N.C. State sophomore forward said: “It has been awhile.”

N.C. State’s last win in Chapel Hill? 2003.

N.C. State’s last win over Roy Williams in Chapel Hill? Never.

The Wolfpack (14-7, 4-4 ACC) makes another trip to UNC (13-7, 3-4) on Saturday afternoon with both teams on the uptick and playing better after slow starts in ACC play.

The Tar Heels have won three of four since an 0-3 ACC start. N.C. State has won three straight since a 35-point loss at Duke on Jan. 18.

For the Wolfpack to build on the confidence of its recent winning streak it will have to overcome history, both recent and not-so-recent.

The Wolfpack is 0-10 at the Smith Center since a 75-67 win over Matt Doherty’s last UNC team on Feb. 25, 2003.

The problems go back farther than Williams, who takes particular delight in beating the Wolfpack (he’s 20-2 with the Tar Heels).

Warren’s dad, Tony, played guard for N.C. State. Going back to his last season, 1978-79, the Wolfpack is 4-30 in Chapel Hill (and 22-72 all-time). The final season for Warren’s dad, by the way, coincided with Williams’ first season as an assistant coach under Dean Smith.

T.J. Warren, who leads the ACC scoring, said this N.C. State team can’t worry about the past.

“We want to go in there and get a win; that’s our goal,” Warren said. “We’re going to go in there with the mentality that we’re going to get a win.”

For this season’s version of N.C. State and UNC, Saturday’s game is a chance to take stock of where both teams are. It’s also an opportunity for both teams to move farther away from where they were.

Heels doing everything better

For just the second time, the Tar Heels lost their first three ACC games. They built some confidence with a victory against Boston College, took a step backward against Virginia but since have put together their first league winning streak.

There are some numbers that have defined UNC’s recent ascent. The Tar Heels are shooting better than before. They’re taking better advantage of second-chance scoring opportunities. Late in the victory at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, UNC – one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country – even shot free throws well.

Individually, James Michael McAdoo, the junior forward, has been at his best. He’s shooting 60 percent in UNC’s past five games, and he has complemented his play with emotional leadership that UNC had been lacking.

“I think the biggest thing has probably just been on both ends of the floor five guys playing together,” McAdoo said, explaining UNC’s improvement since an 0-3 start. “And really buying into everything coach is saying, but also having each other’s backs out there on the defensive end and really just holding each other accountable.

To Williams, though, his team’s improved play can be traced to one thing.

“I feel like I should (say) something else, but I think it’s just that we’ve played with a greater sense of urgency,” he said. “I really do.”

Williams later listed the conference games the Tar Heels have lost. Wake Forest played harder, he said. And so did Miami. And Virginia. In the other defeat, at Syracuse, UNC scored just 45 points – its lowest total since a 45-44 victory against N.C. State at Reynolds Coliseum in 1997.

Before this season, UNC’s 1996-97 team was the only one in school history to start 0-3 in the ACC. UNC’s first conference victory that season came at the Smith Center against N.C. State. It was a victory that ignited a turnaround, and UNC went to the Final Four.

It’s impossible to predict what a victory Saturday against the Wolfpack might do for the Tar Heels, but it’s easier to define the potential significance. UNC would be .500 in the ACC for the first time this season, and under Williams it would still be undefeated at home against N.C. State.

“I always have appreciated the rivalry,” Williams said. “I’ve enjoyed it. But I think it is a big rivalry. It probably means more to me than the typical North Carolina fan. It’s just because of the closeness and some buddies that were North Carolina State students when I was in school here. It was a personal thing.

“But again, if that had any effect on tomorrow’s game, I would be even more appreciative of (UNC’s dominance).”

Yet another victory against the Wolfpack might carry even more significance for the Tar Heels, even if some of their fans – and players – don’t have the same appreciation as Williams for the rivalry.

“It’s just another basketball game – just like Boston College, Virginia Tech, UAB,” McAdoo said. “We want to beat them just as bad as they want to beat us.”