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Miami v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s a big game in Chapel Hill this weekend, as North Carolina takes on NC State at the Dean Dome. Tip-off is set for 4:00 on WBT. The Tar Heels (22-6, 14-3 ACC) beat Miami on Monday, clinching no worse than a second seed in the ACC tournament. A win Saturday would put them one step closer to a conference title. The Wolfpack is on the other end of the spectrum after losing four of their last six games, they’re now 17-11 on the year and fighting to stay alive for a NCAA Tournament berth.

The Wolfpack relies on their perimeter game, which is led by DJ Horne. The guard has been hot in February, averaging over 24 points per game. But he struggled against UNC in the first matchup this season, scoring just six points on 14 of 16 shooting. Horne teams with Casey Morsell and Jaden Taylor, who average a combined 23.4 points per game. If State hits shots from outside they can be tough to beat. But when they’re not hitting, things get dicey. Morsell had been in a shooting slump for a month but put up 19 points in Tuesday’s loss to Florida State. The Wolfpack will need another big night from Morsell and company if they want to stay in this one.

State’s inside game is anchored by senior DJ Burns. He’s only averaging 11 points and four rebounds a game, but he is a load inside – he’s 6’9 and 275 pounds, and can go toe to toe with just about any big man in the league. But Burns didn’t score a single point against the Seminoles, and UNC’s Armando Bacot has had a lot of success against him and the Wolfpack – he picked up 23 points and 18 rebounds against them in last season’s game at the Dean Dome. UNC should have an edge inside, especially on the glass. Mohamed Diarra leads the Wolfpack with 6.5 boards per game, while Bacot leads the ACC in rebounds and now has a tag team partner in Harrison Ingram, who pulled down a whopping 19 rebounds against the Wolfpack in Raleigh.

While the Wolfpack can put up points, defense has been a problem of late. They’ve allowed their last five opponents to shoot over 50% from the floor and nearly 40% from behind the arc. And now they face RJ Davis, who leads the ACC in scoring and had a record 42 points in Monday night’s win over Miami.

They always say “throw out the records in a rivalry game.” But this has been a one-sided rivalry for years now. The Tar Heels are 37-6 versus State over the last 43 games, including a 67-54 win in Raleigh in January. They’ve won five straight in Chapel Hill over the Wolfpack, and it looks like they’ll add to that streak on Saturday. Look for UNC to continue its dominance over State and take another step towards an ACC regular season title. Go Tar Heels!