After a week off for exams, Carolina returns to action tomorrow night, as they play host to the in-state opponent the Elon Phoenix. The last time we saw Carolina, they earned the first ACC win of the Hubert Davis Era, as they topped Georgia Tech 79-62 in Atlanta. That win capped off a big week for the Tar Heels, as earlier in the week, they toppled Michigan in the Smith Center, to secure the first signature win under Hubert Davis.
Elon enters the contest with a 2-7 record, having lost six consecutive games. Even with the seven losses, Elon has four players averaging double figures scoring, led by Torrence Watson who leads the team with 13.1 points per game. As you could expect with a mid-major program, they rely on the three-point shot, as they average making 10.6 threes per game, which ranks 20th nationally, while attempting 28.1 threes per game, which ranks 30th in the country. For further context, Elon has six players shooting 36% or better from behind the arc. With that in mind, you could expect Elon to rely on their long-ball shooting, as they try to pull the upset.
We’ve seen Carolina respond to adversity following the back-to-back losses in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Class in Connecticut a few weeks ago. Now we’re going to see how they can handle success after earning a conference win, which then led to a week off. Hubert Davis said that the win over Georgia Tech validated the win over Michigan and his program. Now the challenge is to not waste all the good feelings from a week ago, here’s how Carolina can do just that:
Play Inside-Out: Elon only has two players 6-10 or taller on their roster, and obviously don’t have the depth to compete with UNC either. Armando Bacot is nearly averaging a double-double as he has transformed into the consistent force this team needs on a nightly basis. Add in Brady Manek’s 14.1 points off the bench, and Carolina clearly has the advantage on the interior. Even with Carolina ranking inside the top 3 nationally in three-point percentage, this offense functions at its best when the ball goes inside first to with Bacot, Manek, or Garica when he’s in rhythm. Luckily for them, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem in this game.
Defend 3 Point Line: As mentioned above, Elon is going to rely on the outside shot to have a chance to be competitive in the game, let alone pull the upset. Carolina is allowing 7.8 threes made per game, and 33% shooting from behind the arc which ranks 201st in the country. They will need more of that effort again on Saturday night.
Play With Energy: This time of year there are holiday crowds in the Smith Center, as people are traveling for the Christmas season. With exams taking place this week, students are already starting to leave campus for the winter semester, so there won’t be as lively a crowd in the arena on Saturday night. Carolina has dealt with this already in the games against Brown and UNC-Asheville, and they looked sluggish, to say the least. Carolina will need to come out with their own energy, and not allow a lesser opponent to hang around.
Get Kerwin Walton Going: Carolina needs Kerwin Walton to be a consistent part of their offense on a nightly basis. Right now Walton is averaging just 5.0 points per game while shooting 35.7% from behind the three-point line. Hubert Davis has challenged Walton to be a better defender, and while Walton hasn’t responded as well as he would have liked, Walton is still the best shooter on the team, and there are going to be games where they’ll need his shot-making capabilities.
Get Dunn & Stylez Minutes: If all goes well, this game will be over by the under-12 timeout of the second half. There’s no need to be concerned about their playing time or lack thereof, but when given the opportunity you’d like to see them on the floor, as they will be cornerstone pieces as soon as next year. Hubert Davis has been pleased with their progression since they arrived on campus. Hopefully, that will be rewarded with some minutes on Saturday.
This will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two North Carolina schools, with UNC holding a 3-0 advantage. The two teams last played on November 20th of 2019, as Carolina was able to manage a 75-61 win in the Smith Center.
UNC - 28th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.8 (8th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.9 (79th)
Elon - 269th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 99.7 (215th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 107.8 (310th)
UNC - 24th
Elon - 341st
TV Info: Saturday’s matchup with Elon starts at 8 PM on the ACC Network.
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