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Syracuse v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

North Carolina is on a roll! The Tar Heels have won six straight, most recently a blowout of Syracuse on Saturday, are all alone atop the ACC standings, and have moved up to fourth in the national rankings. Up next is Louisville on Wednesday night. The Cardinals (6-10) are much improved from last season’s debacle of a team, but have only won twice in their last nine outings. Tip-off is set for 9:00 at the Smith Center, where the Heels are 7-0 this season.

While the Tar Heels are clicking, the Cardinals are still trying to find their way under second year head coach Kenny Payne. They’ve been playing better offensively of late, although they’re stilling averaging just 73.8 points per game. Former star guard El Ellis hit the transfer portal, so redshirt sophomore Mike James is now the Cardinal’s go-to guy. He had 20 points in last weekend’s loss to NC State and is averaging over 14 a contest. Former Illinois guard Skyy Clark also picks up 14 points a game, ,while Southern Cal transfer Tre White adds 12 a contest. The Cardinals took a big hit when senior forward JJ Traynor was lost to a season ending shoulder injury earlier this month. Freshman Ty-Laur Johnson has moved into his starting role. 7-1 center Dennis Evans was also lost for the year, so forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield has taken over inside, he’s Louisville’s top rebounder. Freshman guard Curtis Williams has been a spark off the bench and can be dangerous from behind the arc.

Defense has been the Cardinal’s main problem, they’re allowing nearly 77 points per game, that’s 292nd in the country! They’ll face a UNC team that has been on a tear offensively, with RJ Davis leading the way.