J.D. Lyons Jr.- GoHeels.com
Carolina has returned home from he Bahamas, after going 2-1 in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which allowed the players, coaches, and fans to learn a lot about this year's team. Usually after competing in a tough tournament, a team comes home to face some easier competition. That can't be said for Carolina, who hosts The Ohio State Buckeyes, who are undefeated and own the nation's 6th best ranking. This matchup is taking place because of the annual ACC/Big 10 Challenge, which got underway on Monday.
Ohio State comes to Chapel Hill with a perfect 7-0 record, having already earned some impressive early season wins. They opened the season with a win over in-state rival Cincinnati & blew out Villanova in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games. This will be their first true road game of the season, as every other game has been played in Columbus or on a neutral floor. Chris Holtman's squad puts three players in double figures, led by Kaleb Wesson who averages north of 17 points, while grabbing 9 rebounds a contest. Wesson leads a very balanced attack for his team, as Ohio State scores 78 points a game, while shooting 49% from the field. As impressive as they've been on the offensive end, the same could be said about the defense they've played early on. It's been hard for teams to score against them, only mustering 52.7 points, while shooting on 33%. This kind of play has people talking about them possibly winning the Big 10, even with teams like Michigan State & Maryland being highly thought of.
This is going to be a big challenge for the Tar Heels to say the least. Coming off the trip to Nassau there's no time to rest because this week you play two top 10 teams, that can get it done on the defensive end, starting with the Buckeyes. The Heels have struggled in the half-court early on this season, but found some things to build on over Thanksgiving. If Carolina wants to earn another big time victory,, here are 3 keys to doing so:
1. Half-Court Offense: This can't be stressed enough how much Carolina has struggled in the half court early this season. They've yet shoot 50% in a game thus far. That 7 game stretch without doing so, is the longest since 1959! They'll need to be more efficient and effective in their sets. How do they do that? Better movement without the basketball, cuts to the basket,etc. Most importantly the focus has to be to play through Armando Bacot & Garrison Brooks, and not rely on three point shots.
2.Transition Defense: This came to light in the loss to Michigan, as Carolina failed to get back on multiple occasions which led to easy baskets. Ohio State isn't going to look to run at all costs, but they'll look to push when the opportunity presents itself. Carolina will need to limit those opportunities, and try to bog down the Buckeyes offense in the half court,
3.Free Throws: This area of the game is where we've seen the team be the most inconsistent. Against the Wolverines they were 10-20 in a game they lost by 9, they followed that up with a 20-21 effort in the win over Oregon. In games like these, free throws are magnified because you've got to steal points with the clock stopped. To get to the foul line means you've got to play aggressive, which puts more emphasis on the ball being put in the painted area.
UNC: 12 overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency-110.3 (18th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency- 89.0 (19th)
Ohio State: 4th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency- 109.5 (24th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency- 84.8 (2nd)
Series History: Carolina leads the all time series with the Buckeyes 12-2, including having won the last 7 games. The last time these two teams tangled was back in 2017, where the Tar Heels bested them in New Orleans as part of the CBS Sports Classic.
TV Info: This highly anticipated matchup gets prime time tip, with the game being scheduled for a 9:30 pm start. ESPN will have the coverage.
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