Heels hit stride; Car­di­nals up next

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY JONATHAN M. ALEXAN­DER

jalexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com

North Carolina seems to be hit­ting its stride at the right time.

After strug­gling on de­fense early in the sea­son, No. 12 UNC (12-3, 2- 0 ACC) has had some of its best de­fen­sive per­for­mances as of late. It has opened up ACC play with two road wins, an 85- 60 vic­tory over Pitts­burgh last week and a 90- 82 win over No. 15 N.C. State on Tues­day.

Each of UNC’s last four op­po­nents have shot be­low 43 per­cent from the floor.

“We all have one com­mon goal and that’s to win,” UNC fresh­man guard Coby White said. “We’re all play­ing for the name on the front of our jer­sey.”

On Saturday UNC will face Louisville (10- 5, 1-1) at home at the Dean Smith Cen­ter, where the Tar Heels are 7- 0.

UNC is cur­rently ranked No. 8 in the NCAA’s new NET rank­ings, and ranked No. 6 by ken­pom.com. The Tar Heels have the na­tion’s ninth-most ef­fi­cient of­fense ( points per 100 pos­ses­sions) and 10th-most ef­fi­cient de­fense.

Se­nior for­ward Luke Maye, who was re­cently an­nounced as one of 25 play­ers on the John Wooden Award Mid­sea­son Top 25 Watch List, has recorded a dou­ble-dou­ble in three of his last four games. He is av­er­ag­ing 14.8 points per game, and 10 re­bounds this sea­son.

Louisville has had some highs and re­cent lows in Chris Mack’s first sea­son as the Car­di­nals’ head coach.

All five of Louisville’s losses have come against teams ranked in the top 100 Ken Pom rank­ings.

Louisville’s worst loss was last week against Pitts­burgh (ranked

No. 89). The Car­di­nals lost 89- 86 in over­time to the Pan­thers at home. Louisville also lost at home to Ken­tucky (No. 15) by 13, on a neu­tral court to Mar­quette (No. 33) by 3, on a neu­tral court to Ten­nessee (No. 5) by 11, and on the road to In­di­ana (No. 38) by 1.

The team’s best win came against Michi­gan State (No. 3) on a neu­tral court 82-78. It also beat Se­ton Hall (No. 47) 70- 65, and Mi­ami (No. 65) to open ACC play 90-73.

But in Louisville’s last game against Pitt, the Pan­thers shot 48 per­cent (9-20) from be­hind the 3-point line, and 52.5 per­cent from the floor over­all. Pitt also got to the free throw line 33 times in that game.

The Tar Heels are due for a good shoot­ing per­for­mance. They have shot bet­ter than 45 per­cent from the floor just once — 45.3 per­cent against N.C. State — in the last five games.

LOUISVILLE’S OF­FENSE

The Car­di­nals have the na­tion’s 25th-most ef­fi­cient of­fense. Ac­cord­ing to ken­pom.com, they score 113.1 points per 100 pos­ses­sions. They also do a good job of get­ting to the free throw line. The Car­di­nals have a 46.3 per­cent free throw rate, which is eighth-best in the coun­try.

When they get to the free throw line, they con­vert those at­tempts too. The Car­di­nals shoot 76 per­cent from the free throw line.

The Tar Heels have a ten­dency to al­low their op­po­nents to get to the free throw line too of­ten at times. Last week, the Pan­thers got to the line 32 times against UNC.

The Tar Heels were de­cent against N.C. State, al­low­ing only 17 free throw at­tempts.

TURNOVERS

Louisville forces a turnover on only 16.6 per­cent of its op­po­nents’ pos­ses­sions, which is 301st out of 351 Di­vi­sion I teams.

The Tar Heels turn it over on 18.3 per­cent of their pos­ses­sions.

Against N.C. State, UNC com­mit­ted 23 turnovers, which was tied for a sea­son-high. It has been one of the Tar Heels’ big­gest is­sues this sea­son.

“We had some turnovers that looked like we were a ninth grade bas­ket­ball team at a bad school,” UNC coach Roy Wil­liams said of the N.C. State game. “We’ve got to be tougher.”

UNC is 5-3 when the Tar Heels have the same or more turnovers than an op­po­nent, and 7- 0 when the team has less turnovers than an op­po­nent.

Jonathan M. Alexan­der: 919- 829- 4822, @jon­malexan­der

ETHAN HY­MAN ehy­[email protected]­sob­server.com

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