- Colorado wildfires drag on later than normal, break records
- Hurricane Epsilon Makes a 'Wobbly' Northwest Turn in the Atlantic
- Hurricane Epsilon's 'stadium effect' captured in remarkable video and images
- Epsilon is now a Category 3 Hurricane
- Epsilon instensifies into category 3 hurricane in Atlantic Ocean
After suffering the worst home loss in more than a decade to Louisville last week, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said his team would have to win a game “ugly.”
It happened three days later. UNC defeated Notre Dame 75-69, in a game that was far from pretty. The Tar Heels shot 39.7 percent from the floor.
But it was an important win, nonetheless, because it was proof that the Tar Heels could grind one out despite their recent shooting struggles. The Tar Heels have potential, they just have to be more consistent.
No. 13 UNC (13-4, 3-1 ACC) has a chance to do that Saturday, as the Tar Heels head south to face Miami (9-7, 1-3) on Saturday at 12 p.m. on ESPN2.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I’ve had some teams that I felt like the margin to be, we could lose by two or three, or we could win by 20,” Williams said. “I don’t feel that way with this team yet. I’m hoping that I get there, but we got to go play, and play our best.”
The Hurricanes have struggled in the early part of ACC play with three consecutive losses to N.C. State, Florida State and Louisville. They did, however, snap that three-game losing streak last week by beating Wake Forest at home 76-65.
The Tar Heels have recently fallen to 25th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Prior to their loss to Louisville, the Tar Heels were ranked in the top 10 in both categories. Part of that was because of how well the Tar Heels had played during its four-game winning streak, which included wins over Davidson, Harvard, Pittsburgh and N.C. State.
A win here would put UNC at 4-1 in conference play and tie them for first place if Virginia loses to Duke.
Here are three things the Tar Heels must do to win:
1. Stay in front of Chris Lykes
Lykes is 5-7, 157 pounds. But don’t let his size fool you. He’s one of the best points guards in the ACC. He averages 17.9 points per game, which is the seventh-best in the conference.
The Tar Heels have struggled this season guarding the ball, which has led to uncontested layups and open three-pointers when they have helped out on the drive.
Few players have been better than Lykes at getting past a defender.
When asked what makes Lykes tough to guard, Williams said his quickness.
“You back off him, he shoots it in,” Williams said. “You get up on him, he goes by you. He’s small so he gets through the cracks. When you split the ball screen and there’s not enough room there, it’s harder for — you can tell him I said this — it would be harder for Sean May to get through that than Chris Lykes.”
The Tar Heels were in a similar situation against N.C. State point guard Markell Johnson earlier this month. But the Tar Heels were able to slow Johnson, who finished with 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. UNC won 90-82.
2. Dominate the rebounds
Historically, UNC’s best teams have been able to rebound the ball well and they’ve rebounded well this season too. But when they haven’t won on the glass they have struggled.
The Tar Heels are 12-2 when they have more rebounds than their opponents, and 0-2 when their opponents have more rebounds than them. Those two losses came to Kentucky and Louisville.
The Tar Heels may have an opportunity here. The Hurricanes have a 26 percent offensive rebounding percentage, or rebound 26 percent their own misses, which is ranked 251st in the country. Their opponents have a 30.3 percent offensive rebounding percentage, which is ranked 250th in the country.
The Tar Heels have a 35.2 percent rebounding percentage, which is 24th in the country.
“We’ve got to hit the boards harder than we have all year,” UNC senior guard Kenny Williams said. “If we hit the boards like we’re supposed to, both ways, then I think we’ll put ourselves in a great position to come out on top.”
3. Take care of the ball
Taking care of the ball is really the key for the Tar Heels every game. It has been one of of the their biggest problems.
“I wish we would all make better decisions with the ball because we’re turning it over more,” Roy Williams said.
The Tar Heels showed improvement in the second half of their game with Notre Dame, and it was one of the reasons they won. They had nine turnovers in the first half, but only two in the second half.
UNC was outscored by three points in the first half and outscored the Fighting Irish by nine points in the second half.
The Tar Heels are 7-0 when their opponents have more turnovers and 5-2 when they have more turnovers than their opponent.
UNC at Miami
When: Jan. 19, 12 p.m.
Where: Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Fla.