GAME NOTES: Two teams looking for their first ACC win of the season will collide at the Smith Center on Wednesday evening, as the North Carolina Tar Heels play host to the Miami Hurricanes.
Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes are definitely not the team that took the ACC by storm last season, winning the conference crown. The team has been simply treading water up to this point, coming in with a middling 8-6 overall record. Miami already finds itself in the hole in the ACC, losing its only two league bouts to date, including a 49-44 defensive battle with second-ranked Syracuse last weekend.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels have been a Jekyll and Hyde team this year, showing grit and determination in wins over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, but then inexplicably, losing to teams like Belmont and UAB and most recently, Wake Forest (73-67) to kick off the ACC slate on Sunday.
North Carolina holds an 18-5 series advantage over Miami, including a 9-2 mark in Chapel Hill. However, Miami beat UNC three times last season, including the ACC Tournament Championship Game (87-77).
The faces have changed in Coral Gables, but Miami's strong defensive play has continued. The Hurricanes are among the nation's top teams in terms of scoring defense, allowing just 59.5 ppg (12th nationally), while holding foes to just 40 percent shooting accuracy. Scoring has been the team's real area of weakness this year. The 'Canes come into this contest averaging just 63.5 ppg (324th nationally). Rion Brown and Garrius Adams are the only players on the roster currently averaging double figures in scoring at 13.4 and 10.6 ppg, respectively. James Kelly and Donnavan Kirk are just below the mark, with 9.1 ppg each.
It was once again a strong defensive effort by the Hurricanes, as they certainly did their job limiting the potent Orange at the Carrier Dome this past weekend. Miami allowed only 49 points to Syracuse, as the Orange shot just .362 from the floor, including a mere .200 from behind the arc (3-of-15). The Hurricanes however, were unable to take advantage at the other end, as the team scored a season-low 44 points. No one on the team finished in double figures in the low-scoring affair, as Adams and Kelly were the closest at nine and eight points, respectively.
The Tar Heels dominated Wake Forest on the glass, outrebounding the Demon Deacons 53-34, including a 24-8 edge in offensive boards, but it didn't help, as UNC shot a mere .387 from the floor in the loss in Winston-Salem. James Michael McAdoo led the team in the scoring column with 13 points. J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson added 12 points each, but leading scorer Marcus Paige struggled greatly in the loss, finishing with just eight points on an ugly 3- of-12 shooting performance.
Paige has been much more effective on the season, as he has taken the next step in his evolution as a team leader. The sophomore guard serves as the team's top scorer (17.6 ppg) and distributor (4.1 apg). McAdoo (14.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) is next in line, followed by Leslie McDonald (11.6 ppg), Johnson (11.4 ppg) and Tokoto (10.3 ppg). The scoring depth has really aided the UNC attack, with the team averaging an impressive 79.1 ppg on .467 shooting.
The Hurricanes will bring it at the defensive end and probably frustrate the Tar Heels at time, but once again, fail to take advantage in another low scoring affair.
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