North Carolina-UAB Preview
North Carolina coach Roy Williams was once seen as one of the many proteges of Dean Smith.
He's been around long enough now to have a similarly expansive list of coaches grow from his own tutelage, and he'll face one of them Sunday against UAB in the 16th-ranked Tar Heels' first true road game of the season.
Blazers coach Jerod Haase was an assistant under Williams for 13 seasons at North Carolina and Kansas after playing for him with the Jayhawks from 1994-97.
"We're all a reflection of coach Williams trying in our own ways to take what we learned from him and pass it along to our own student-athletes," Haase told the Tar Heels' official website. "So we do feel pride in what we learned from him, the connection to him, and I hope coach Williams takes a great deal of pride in that."
He'll get a second crack at beating his former boss and coach after a 102-84 loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Dec. 1, 2012, though the game was close well into the second half. North Carolina (4-1) leads the all-time series 3-0.
"When I see UAB I don't see 'UAB,' I think Jerod Haase," Williams said.
Williams makes this trip to Birmingham between a pair of matchups with top-five opponents, including Wednesday's visit to No. 1 Michigan State.
The Tar Heels, only 6-6 in true road games last season, haven't played since last Sunday's 93-84 victory over then-No. 3 Louisville in the Hall of Fame Tipoff tournament final in Uncasville, Conn.
Marcus Paige scored a career high for the second straight game with 32, one night after having 26 points in a win over Richmond. The sophomore guard is averaging 22.4 points and shooting 53.1 percent from 3-point range, having attempted 32 of the Tar Heels' 48 shots from beyond the arc.
North Carolina tried a season-low six 3-pointers against Louisville with Paige hitting 3 of 5.
"I'm trying to stay in attack mode the entire time," said Paige, who missed last year's game against UAB with a shoulder injury. "That makes our team harder to guard and frees up the big guys. I'm one of the leaders on this team so I feel the need to provide some outside scoring. I'm the only one who attempts 3-pointers pretty much."
The rest of the starting five combined for 27 points while Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson each scored 13 off the bench.
Williams was less concerned with how his team scored than its ability to continue to bounce back from its Nov. 17 home loss to Belmont.
"It's a completely different feeling than it was seven days ago at the end of the Belmont game when we didn't play," Williams said. "Today I thought we played exceptionally well."
The Tar Heels held Louisville to 38.8 percent shooting. For the season, they're holding opponents to 38.9 percent.
The Blazers (5-2) have dropped their last seven games against ranked opponents, including a 97-94 double-overtime loss to New Mexico on Nov. 21.
They've since won two of three games after improving to 4-0 at home with Wednesday's 85-73 victory over Florida A&M, despite a 29-for-49 mark at the foul line.
"I didn't think we played a great basketball game but we did grind, we did respond," Haase told the school's official website. "When they made a little run at us, we made a run back at them."
C.J. Washington scored a game-high 20 points while Chad Frazier and Rod Rucker each added 17. Frazier, a junior college transfer, is leading the team with 18.4 points per game.
UAB is outrebounding opponents 340-251, and its plus-12.7 rebounding margin leads Conference USA.
North Carolina has a plus-9.0 margin and has yet to be outrebounded.