No. 10 North Carolina has responded quite well to its first loss of the season and looks to finish off a stretch of seven games in 14 days with a fourth straight victory when Western Carolina pays a visit Wednesday night. The Tar Heels managed just 45 points in the loss against Michigan State on Nov. 26 and are averaging 89.3 in three games since with a trio of double-digit victories.
North Carolina capped that impressive run by shooting a season-best 65.5 percent from the field in a 97-73 win over Tulane on Sunday and coach Roy Williams called the first 20 minutes the best defensive half his team played all season. “That was a fun game,” Tar Heels junior guard Kenny Williams told reporters after draining 5-of-6 from the field for 13 points Sunday. “We were pretty locked in from the beginning.” Junior forward Luke Maye has scored at least 20 points and shot at least 50 percent from the field in seven of nine games for North Carolina, which does not play its next game until Dec. 17 at Tennessee. Western Carolina plays its fifth major conference team of the season and is 0-5 in true road games, but is coming off a 72-71 victory over Appalachian State on Monday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ACC Network Extra
ABOUT WESTERN CAROLINA (3-6): Junior forward Mike Amius scored 19 points and his dunk with 7.4 seconds left was the deciding basket as the Catamounts knocked off Appalachian State. Senior guard Deriece Parks improved his scoring average to 10.4 after recording a game-high 20 in the win and freshman guard Matt Halvorsen (team-best 11.7 per game) contributed 14. Senior guard Devin Peterson, who is averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 3.3 assists, was suspended for Monday’s game by coach Larry Hunter and his status for Wednesday is uncertain.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (8-1): The Tar Heels held Tulane to 37.7 percent shooting from the field - slightly more than the season-best 37.5 they allowed against Arkansas on Nov. 24. “That was the key that (coach Williams) put on the board: Let this be our best defensive game all year,” senior swingman Theo Pinson told reporters. “We knew we had to be locked in defensively, and once we got after them, we had control.” Maye is averaging 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds, shooting 56.4 percent from the field, while Joel Berry II is contributing 16.5 points per contest.
1. North Carolina freshman F Brandon Huffman had nine points and six rebounds - both season highs - in 12 minutes Sunday.
2. Western Carolina is averaging 21 attempts from 3-point range per game and connecting on 38.6 percent of them.
3. Berry needs two made 3-pointers to pass Dante Calabria (193) for eighth and six to move ahead of Hubert Davis (197) on the school’s all-time list.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 90, Western Carolina 60