Boston College-North Carolina Preview
When North Carolina took on Boston College last month, the Tar Heels executed their game plan after coach Roy Williams noticed his squad had a distinct size advantage.
Nineteenth-ranked North Carolina may try to replicate that approach in Greensboro on Wednesday when it looks to begin a run toward its first ACC tournament title in seven years with another win over the Eagles.
Isaiah Hicks made one of his three starts all season and finished with a career-high 21 points and five rebounds, while Brice Johnson had 20 points and 10 boards in a 79-68 win at Boston College on Feb. 7.
The Tar Heels shot 56.9 percent from the field while attempting a season-low five 3-pointers as they pulled away in the second half. They also outscored the Eagles 46-32 in the paint and outrebounded them 37-23.
"We switched rotation with our bigs because we saw some things and we thought we could take advantage of it with Brice and Isaiah at the same time," guard Marcus Paige said after he had 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Hicks could become a factor again in the team’s tourney opener after playing no more than 10 minutes in each of the past three games because fellow forward Kennedy Meeks, averaging 12.0 points and 7.6 rebounds, isn’t expected to play because of illness.
Paige had a season high-tying 23 points and Johnson added 17 in Saturday’s 84-77 home loss to then-No. 3 Duke. Paige had averaged 9.5 points over his prior six contests, while Johnson had scored four or less in two of his previous three.
The fifth-seeded Tar Heels (21-10, 11-7) now hope for a fresh start after dropping six of their last 10. Despite reaching the finals in three of the past four years, they haven’t won the ACC tournament since 2007-08.
"It’s a new season now, as everybody says," Williams said. "We get to go out there and see if we can play our tails off for four days. And if we do, we’ve got a chance to win the whole thing. When we play really well, we’ve got a chance to beat anybody."
Williams’ team has averaged 80.0 points with a plus-7.9 rebounding margin while winning six straight by an average of 15.2 in the series.
Last month’s loss to the Tar Heels was part of a season-worst nine-game skid, but the 12th-seeded Eagles (13-18) have since matched a season high with four consecutive victories. They advanced Tuesday when Olivier Hanlan hit a jumper with 10.9 seconds left for a 66-65 win over No. 13 seed Georgia Tech.
Hanlan led the way with 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Patrick Heckmann scored a season-high 19 as the Eagles won despite getting outrebounded 43-26. Boston College ranked second-to-last in the ACC with a minus-1.6 rebounding margin.
”Obviously at the end of the day, put the ball in the hands of a special player and he makes a play,” coach Jim Christian said. ”As I told the team, you don’t have to play great to advance in conference tournaments. You just have to advance.”
Hanlan burned the Tar Heels for 30 points last month and has averaged 22.7 in three career matchups. Aaron Brown contributed 18 points in the first meeting, but he scored a season-low three on 1-of-7 shooting Tuesday.
The Eagles have lost 26 of their last 28 against ranked opponents, going 0-6 this season.