Fourth-ranked North Carolina must lick its wounds from a shocking loss at home when it ends the non-conference schedule with a challenging matchup against Ohio State on Saturday afternoon in New Orleans as part of the CBS Sports Classic. The Tar Heels shot just 36.4 percent from the field and turned the ball over 14 times in a 79-75 setback against Wofford of the Southern Conference on Wednesday to end a five-game winning streak.
“Bad movement, bad defense, bad coaching,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams told reporters. “It was a disgusting thing for me the entire game.” The Tar Heels could have been mentally drained after an emotional 78-73 victory at No. 20 Tennessee on Sunday and looked past Wofford as senior guard Joel Berry III told the media that the proper effort level was not there Wednesday. The Buckeyes come to Chapel Hill with five straight wins, averaging 85 points during that stretch, while owning victories over Wisconsin and Michigan to open the Big Ten season, but they will need their top performance Saturday. “I think we’re going to have to move the ball,” first-year Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann told reporters. “Our ability to not turn it over and execute our offense and not feed into their transition with our poor ballhandling and our shot selection is going to be really, really critical. If we don’t do that, it’ll be a long night for us.”
TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT OHIO STATE (10-3): The Buckeyes have been pretty efficient offensively all season, averaging 79.5 points on 49.5 percent shooting from the field with four players scoring at least 12 per game. Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop is off to a tremendous start while leading the team in scoring (18.2), rebounds (8.9) and draining 52.7 percent of his shots from floor. Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate chips in with 12.9 points per game and has been red hot of late, making 30 of his last 39 attempts from the field over five contests and connecting on 60.3 percent of his attempts overall.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (10-2): The Tar Heels, who are 11-2 all-time against the Buckeyes, will need more depth in scoring when the ACC season is in full swing with just three players (participating in more than one game) averaging nine points or better. Junior forward Luke Maye (19.3 points, 10.6 rebounds) has been a consistent force, and Berry (17.1 points) scored 44 combined in the last two contests. Senior guard Cameron Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, could be another scoring option after recording 10 in his debut Wednesday following a knee injury.
1. Ohio State freshman F Kaleb Wesson has drained 16-of-26 from the field in the last three games and averages 12.3 points.
2. North Carolina junior G Kenny Williams, scoring 13.2 points per game, has made 25 of his 47 attempts from 3-point range.
3. Buckeyes senior G Kam Williams has raised his production level the last three contests, averaging 13.7 points with seven 3s.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 82, Ohio State 70