No. 14 North Carolina went into the Christmas break after a strong performance and hopes to duplicate that effort when it opens ACC play with a home contest against Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels were shocked at home by Wofford on Dec. 20, but came back three days later to drain 13-of-25 from 3-point range to roll past Ohio State 86-72 in New Orleans.
“We’ve got veteran guys who know we can’t sulk,” North Carolina’s senior swingman Theo Pinson told reporters after matching his season high with 19 points in the win. “We need to move on to the next game, but at the same time, keep that loss in our minds.” Senior guard Joel Berry II is averaging 21 points over the last three games as the Tar Heels go for a fifth straight victory over the Demon Deacons, who saw their six-game winning streak come to an end last time out. Wake Forest, who opened the season with three straight losses, faced its first ranked team last Saturday when No. 20 Tennessee outscored the Demon Deacons 43-25 in the second half. “I thought we came out and tried to make too many home-run type plays with our turnovers,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning told reporters. “One of the last things that we talked about in the locker room was make easy plays. We didn’t make all easy plays that we should have, or needed to.”
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ABOUT WAKE FOREST (7-5, 0-0 ACC): Bryant Crawford’s 36-game streak of double-figure scoring games ended last time out against Tennessee as he made just 1-of-6 shots from the field for three points with seven turnovers. Crawford averages 15.3 points - second on the team behind fellow junior guard Keyshawn Woods (16.0) - and a team-high 4.7 assists along with shooting 90.8 percent from the foul line. Senior guard Mitchell Wilbekin (9.4 points per game) was the only starter to score in double figures against Tennessee with 11 points.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (11-2, 0-0): Berry has made nine 3-pointers during his three-game hot streak and is second on the team in scoring (17.3) behind junior forward Luke Maye (18.5 points, team-high 10.5 rebounds), who managed just nine points against Ohio State. Junior guard Kenny Williams is one of the Tar Heels’ best defensive players and is averaging 12.4 points while connecting on 26 of his 50 attempts from behind the arc. Senior guard Cameron Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, has totaled 24 points in his first two games since missing the first 11 with a knee injury.
1. The Tar Heels have won four straight in the series and boast more victories (159) against Wake Forest than any other opponent.
2. North Carolina is second in the nation is rebound margin (plus-12.5) and is draining 39.6 percent from 3-point range.
3. Wilbekin is seventh all-time at Wake Forest with 168 makes from 3-point range and Crawford (126) needs three to tie for 10th.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 86, Wake Forest 72