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Heel Tough Blog: UC Riverside Preview

Maggie Hobson/University of North Carolina Athletics

The Tar Heels are back in action later tonight, as they host UC Riverside, in their final home game before traveling to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis next week. Carolina has started the 2023-24 season, 2-0, after solid wins over Radford and Lehigh. After going 2-0 to open the season, the Tar Heels dropped one spot in the AP Top 25 and are now ranked 20th in the country.

This is the second Highlander team Carolina has faced this season, as Radford had the same mascot. UC Riverside is 1-2 so far on the season and is coming off a 22-12 season in the Big West. The Highlanders lost four of their top five scorers from that team last season, including Zyon Pullin, who led the Big West in scoring at 18.3 points. Currently, UC Riverside has two players averaging double-figures scoring, led by Barrington Hargress, who leads the team in scoring at 12.3 points. Additionally, Isaiah Moses averages 10.0 points per game, after transferring in from the College of Southern Idaho, after being the 2020 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Alaska. Like many mid-major teams, the Highlanders attack from the perimeter. Their 32.3 three-point attempts are the 8th most in the country. Furthermore, their 37% shooting percentage, inside the three-point line, ranks 358th in the country, out of 362 teams.

Carolina has been very efficient on the offensive end of the floor, as they’re averaging 88.0 points per game to start the season. They’ve done without shooting well from behind the three-point line, as they are shooting 32% so far in 2023-24. Tonight they’ll look to improve on that aspect of the game, as they look to improve to 3-0 to start the season. Here’s what to watch during tonight’s final tuneup before next week’s holiday tournament:

  1. Establish Armando Bacot: It is the year of the big man in college basketball, with Hunter Dickinson at Kansas, Zach Edey at Purdue, and Kyle Filipowski at Duke. Armando Bacot was one of the forgotten big men entering the season, but that’s starting to change after a dominant start. Bacot, who is in his super-senior season, is averaging 23.5 points and 16.5 rebounds and posted a 20/20 game on Sunday against Lehigh. The Highlanders may have two players in their rotation, that are 6-11, but they aren’t capable of handling Carolina’s big man. The game plan needs to be to get Bacot involved early and often, which shouldn’t be a problem if he gets the position on the block he’s gotten in the first two games.

  2. Defend 3 Point Line: UC Riverside relies on their perimeter shooting, to generate its offense. The Tar Heels struggled with Lehigh’s ball screen action, as the Mountain Hawks shot 39% from behind the arc. You have to imagine that UC Riverside will try to replicate that success, despite not having the same talent or personnel that Lehigh has. With that in mind, Carolina needs to be mindful of their perimeter shooting prowess, and be alert, and ready to close out at all times. Hubert Davis has used Seth Trimble and Jae’Lyn Withers off the bench to dominate on the defensive end of the floor. Expect him to do the same once again tonight.

  3. Perimeter Shooting: As important as it is for Carolina to defend the perimeter, they need to shoot the ball better from the outside. Carolina can dominate the likes of Radford, Lehigh, and even UC Riverside without shooting the ball well from behind the arc, but it’ll be hard to win the Battle 4 Atlantis next week, shooting that way. With that said, Cormac Ryan and Paxon Wojcik, two guys who have been given the green light to shoot the long ball, need to ramp up their aggressiveness in that area.

Series History:

This is the first-ever matchup between North Carolina and UC Riverside.


North Carolina - 21st overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 114.2 (18th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.2 (40th)

UC Riverside - 252nd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 97.1 (28th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 103.9 (197th)

TV Info: Tonight’s game is set to start at 8 PM, and will be televised on the ACC Network.

The Four Corners Podcast:


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