North Carolina-Louisville Preview
Louisville may boast the ACC’s best backcourt duo in Terry Rozier and Chris Jones. The pressure will be on the 10th-ranked Cardinals’ front line Saturday, however, when they try to avenge a loss from three weeks ago against No. 13 North Carolina.
The Cardinals (17-3, 5-2 ACC) have won 80-68 at Pittsburgh and 81-72 at Boston College since losing 63-52 at home against then-No. 4 Duke on Jan. 17. They were 6 of 12 from 3-point range in both road victories after previously shooting 29.4 percent from deep, which ranked 12th in the conference.
Rozier combined for 49 points on 19-for-31 shooting in those games and is averaging an ACC-best 20.8 points over his last 13 dating back to Dec. 9. He has been more prolific on the road, however, averaging 24.8 points compared to 14.9 at home.
Jones scored 45 points in the back-to-back wins while going 6 of 9 from long distance. He was 2 of 10 from the floor in the loss to Duke.
"I have never seen two guards play the amount of minutes they play, with the intensity they play for the entire game," Boston College coach Jim Christian said. "It’s really special to watch."
They combined for 44 points in a 72-71 loss at then-No. 18 North Carolina on Jan. 10. Marcus Paige hit a go-ahead jumper with nine seconds left in the Tar Heels’ third straight victory in the series.
Louisville likely needs a better game from Montrezl Harrell, who had nine points on 4-of-10 shooting and five rebounds, 3.9 fewer than his season average. Harrell is averaging 10.3 points on 45.9 percent shooting in four games against ranked opponents compared to 16.1 and 60.6 percent in all other contests.
North Carolina, which trailed by 13 points with fewer than nine minutes remaining, had 17 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points. Louisville ranks 13th in the ACC allowing 12.0 offensive rebounds a game. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels are one of the nation’s best offensive rebounding teams with 15.6 per game.
"We have to do a much better job on the backboards," coach Rick Pitino said. "I expect Montrezl Harrell to do a much better job than he did at North Carolina, rebounding wise."
That started a six-game winning streak for the Tar Heels (17-4, 7-1), who are 4-2 against ranked teams. They’ve shot 52.6 percent over their last five overall.
"It’s been different from one game to the next," coach Roy Williams said of the winning streak. " … If I had to think of one thing, probably just the competitiveness, the toughness, we kept playing regardless of if things are going good, things are going bad."
The frontcourt duo of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson is averaging a combined 28.0 points on 60.9 percent shooting over the last six. They combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds in the first meeting.
Each scored 17 and helped the Tar Heels claim a 42-27 rebounding advantage in a 93-83 home win against Syracuse on Monday. North Carolina’s average plus-10.9 rebounding margin in conference play is its best since the 2007-08 Final Four team was plus-11.4.
Paige and Nate Britt combined to go 8 of 12 from long range versus Syracuse. Paige had 22 points, eight assists with no turnovers and four steals. The 93 points were the most against Syracuse since it gave up 117 in six overtimes against Connecticut on March 12, 2009.
The Cardinals haven’t beaten North Carolina since a 97-80 home win on Dec. 23, 1999.