GAME NOTES: Coming off their biggest win of the season, the 16th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels hope to take that momentum into a Sunday evening showdown with the UAB Blazers at Bartow Arena.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels were shocked earlier in the season at home in a loss to Belmont, but have righted the ship to get to 4-1 on the year, with consecutive victories over Richmond (82-72) and defending national champion Louisville (93-84) to capture last week's Hall of Fame Tipoff title in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Jerod Haase's Blazers opened the season with three straight wins at home, but dropped decisions in two of the next three outings, losing twice in the Charleston Classic last weekend with setbacks to both New Mexico (97-94 2OT) and Temple (87-66). The team found its way back into the win column last Wednesday with an 85-73 win over Florida A&M.
North Carolina has won all three previous meetings in this series, with the last one being a 102-84 victory in 2012.
Marcus Paige had the game of his career against Louisville, as he erupted for a career-high 32 points, as he went 9-of-12 from the floor and 11-of-11 from the charity stripe. Kennedy Meeks added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Brice Johnson finished with 13 points as well. The Tar Heels shot a sizzling .542 from the floor against the Cardinals, while winning the battle on the boards (40-35).
The Tar Heels are still missing some key components to their team with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald still sidelined, but Paige has stepped up and filled the gap, shooting the lights out (.531 overall, .531 from 3-point range) en route to a gaudy 22.4 ppg. James Michael McAdoo (15.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Brice Johnson (14.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) give the team plenty of depth and balance. Overall, North Carolina is shooting .495 from the floor and putting up 80.2 ppg. The team has also enjoyed a +9.0 rebounding margin.
The Blazers have proven themselves to be a competent offensive team bordering on explosive. UAB is shooting a modest .438 from the floor overall, but the team is still averaging a hefty 81.1 ppg. Chad Frazier is the team's go-to-guy offensively speaking, as he is averaging and impressive 18.4 ppg, while doubling as the team's top distributor (5.3 apg). C.J. Washington (16.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg) has the ability to fill up the basket as well and teams with Rod Rucker (12.4 ppg. 9.9 rpg) to give the team a formidable front line. Robert Williams (11.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg) comes off the bench and provides quality minutes.
The Blazers were able to get back in the win column with an 12-point decision over Florida A&M, but they made things a lot harder on themselves by missing on 20 free-throw attempts in the game. Still, UAB was able to outscore the Rattlers from the charity stripe, 29-11. Washington led four Blazers in double figures with 20 points. Rucker and Frazier posted 17 points each, while Williams ended with 14.
The Blazers aren't an easy out by any stretch of the imagination, but UNC's win over Louisville may be the start of a run for the Tar Heels, which may not stop anytime soon.