East Carolina-North Carolina Preview

North Carolina will have to take care of a familiar face at home

before it seeks redemption on the road.

The 21st-ranked Tar Heels seek their third straight win Saturday

as they host an East Carolina program coached by former Carolina

standout Jeff Lebo.

Lebo played under Dean Smith from 1985-89, with current coach

Roy Williams serving as an assistant for Lebo’s first three

seasons. He first coached against his alma mater while at Tennessee

Tech in 1999, and was defeated 85-59.

“It’s exciting to go back and it’s exciting for our players to

give them an opportunity to play on that stage in that atmosphere,”

Lebo said. “I think it’s going to be really helpful to our team and

to our players. I think it’s something they’ll remember and they’re

really looking forward to this game.”

Lebo’s Pirates (6-1) are in for a challenge against a North

Carolina squad that is coming off a pair of blowout home victories

since an 83-59 loss at No. 1 Indiana on Nov. 27.

The Tar Heels (7-2), who visit Texas on Wednesday, defeated East

Tennessee State 78-55 last Saturday. UNC went on a 34-2 run in the

first half and allowed 12 points in the period – the lowest scoring

total for a half in the history of the almost 27-year-old Smith

Center.

The Tar Heels once again distributed the ball effectively,

assisting on 30 of 31 field goals. They are leading the country

with 20.1 assists per game, and have tallied 26 or more in three of

four contests.

The return of freshman point guard Marcus Paige helped after he

missed one game with a shoulder injury. Paige recorded a

season-high seven assists.

“I believe we’re a very unselfish team,” said Reggie Bullock,

who is third on the team at 3.2 assists per game. “We try to share

the ball to the best of our ability. We always try to find the open

shooters and get the ball inside to the big man to finish strong. I

think we did well sharing the ball and getting people open

shots.”

Although Williams turned to his reserves early after halftime,

he wasn’t happy that his team was outscored 43-36 in the second

half.

“I don’t like to say this, but we couldn’t maintain that same

type of intensity in the second half,” Williams said. “I wish we

could have, but we didn’t.”

Lebo is coming off his 250th career victory as ECU defeated NAIA

school St. Andrews 111-59 on Dec. 4. The Pirates scored their most

points since a 111-81 win over The Citadel on Dec. 4, 1975, and

also tallied 30 assists.

After shooting 26.2 percent from 3-point range in their first

six games, they set a school record by hitting 18-of-36 from

distance.

“We haven’t really been shooting the ball all that well, but

we’re capable of doing that and we proved that tonight,” said Akeem

Richmond, who hit 5 of his 10 3-point tries. “Hopefully it carries

on during the season in the other games.”

East Carolina could certainly use some hot shooting Saturday

considering it is 0-44 all-time on the road against ranked

opponents.

North Carolina won both prior meetings, most recently 85-65 in

the first round of the 1993 NCAA tournament.