Carolina will be playing their third game in four days, as they play host to in-state opponent UNC-Asheville tonight in the Smith Center, and it couldn't come at a better time. Carolina is coming off a frustrating 0-2 weekend in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off classic as they lost to ranked teams in Purdue and Tennessee. The loss to Purdue was a highly competitive game where the Tar Heels simply came up short, meanwhile, the Tennessee game was one where they weren’t ready to play, and was simply outworked for 40 minutes. The main culprit for their deficiencies has been on the defensive end of the floor, as Carolina allowed 93 to Purdue, and 89 more to Tennessee. After allowing 67 points in the season opener against Loyola (MD), Carolina has allowed 83 points or more in four straight games. When asked about his defense after the Tennessee defeat, Hubert Davis was adamant that it would improve.
The Bulldogs enter tonight’s contest with an even 2-2 record, coming off a 61-55 win over Tennessee Tech. Their other win on the season came against Brevard College 101-44. Asheville only has one player averaging double figures in scoring in Drew Pember, who leads the team with 10.8 points per game. Despite only having Pember in double figures, the Bulldogs have seven players averaging at least seven points, to give them a balanced offensive attack. As for the defensive end of the floor, Asheville is only allowing opponents to make four three-pointers which ranks 5th in the country, and are allowing just 21% from behind the arc, which is 8th best in all of college basketball.
After the way Carolina played over the weekend, you have to imagine the guys are chomping at the bit, to get that bad taste out of their mouth, and get some confidence before heading into Thanksgiving break. Welcoming in an undersized and overmatched opponent, and Carolina has a recipe to get back on track, but in games like this, it’s not just about winning, it’s about how you win:
Defense: It’s obvious Carolina has to get better on that end of the floor if they want to be a legitimate team this season. In their last 8 halves, Carolina has allowed the opposition to shoot 60% four times. In the second half against Purdue, they allowed the Boilermakers to shoot 64%. In the second half against Tennessee, they allowed the Volunteers to score on 16 of 17 possessions at one point. Hubert Davis shouldn’t and won’t abandon his defensive principles five games into his coaching career, but adjustments need to be made. Whether it’s playing zone defense, or extending pressure, or simply just playing guys that want to give an effort defensively, UNC won’t make progress until they defend.
Turnovers: After a nice start protecting the basketball, UNC has gotten careless these last couple of games, forcing the issue, and struggling to make simple passes into the post. The Bulldogs aren’t going to be able to impose their will defensively, so this is an opportunity to correct some mistakes and get in the habit of making the right type of plays.
Rebounding: Carolina out-rebounded a much larger Purdue team on Saturday, before turning around and getting out-rebounded by Tennessee yesterday. With the change in philosophy, Carolina isn’t going to dominate the glass as they did under Roy Williams, but they can compete, and rebound at a high level. With UNC-Asheville only having three players on their roster 6-9 or taller, Carolina’s frontcourt should control the painted area all night long.
Reengage Kerwin Walton: After helping lift Carolina past Charleston last week, Walton was just 2-10 from behind the arc over the weekend and hasn’t found his rhythm yet this season. His minutes have been spotty as he’s continued to struggle defensively, but Carolina needs him to be more involved in their offense starting tonight.
Play With Energy: With Thanksgiving two days away, it’s safe to say that the Smith Center won’t be a capacity crowd tonight. Carolina came out sluggish on Sunday, and you have to wonder if that was due in large part to the sparse crowd in the building. With that likely to be the case once again tonight, Carolina needs to come out ready to play, and will most likely have to create their own energy in the process.
Series History: This will be the 9th all-time meeting between the schools from the Tar Heel State, with Carolina holding an 8-0 advantage in the series. With the last meeting coming back in the 2011-12 season, a 91-75 Tar Heel victory.
UNC - 53rd overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 111.6 (15th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.2 (134th)
UNC-Asheville - 284th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 95.6 (263rd) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 105.4 (294th)
TV Info: Tonight’s game will tip at 7 PM, and will air on ACC Network Extra
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