North Carolina-UNLV Preview
North Carolina owns an average victory margin of 22.4 points,
but figures to get its first major test of the season against an
opponent playing not too far from its home court.
The top-ranked Tar Heels will meet UNLV in a matchup of unbeaten
teams in Saturday night’s championship of the Las Vegas
Invitational at the Orleans Arena.
North Carolina (5-0) won 67-55 over Michigan State in its Nov.
11 opener at the Carrier Classic in San Diego, but that remains the
most competitive game for coach Roy Williams’ club. The Tar Heels
have outscored their opponents in every half, and their smallest
halftime lead has been nine.
UNLV (6-0), meanwhile, has yet to lose under new coach Dave
Rice, part of the school’s 1990 national championship team. The
Runnin’ Rebels are playing about five miles away from their home
arena, the Thomas & Mack Center.
Still, a large contingent of Tar Heels faithful is expected to
match the expected group of local Rebels’ fans at the 8,000-seat
venue – located at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. About 3,000 North
Carolina fans attended Friday’s 87-62 rout of South Carolina.
These teams entered play Friday as the country’s top teams in
assists. North Carolina is now averaging 22.2 while UNLV slipped a
bit with a season-low 12 on Friday and is averaging 20.0.
Tar Heels sophomore guard Kendall Marshall is second in the
nation with 11.4 assists per game. He handed out 14 on Friday, just
missing his fourth career effort with at least 15 – no other North
Carolina player in history has had more than one performance with
at least that many.
Marshall also added a career-high six steals after coming up
with two in his first four games.
“Kendall, I thought was sensational,” Williams said. “Those are
the kinds of stats that are really important to our team.”
Four different Tar Heels have led North Carolina in scoring this
season, with Harrison Barnes contributing a team-high 21 points
Friday. Freshman P.J. Hairston added 19 points in 15 minutes off
North Carolina forced 17 first-half turnovers that led to 18
points to build a 45-32 cushion at the break. The Tar Heels never
trailed, jumping to a 19-4 lead.
“We did a great job on getting out on the break and getting a
lot of easy opportunities early on,” Marshall said. “In the second
half, I think there was an eight-minute span where we got a lot of
UNLV was also opportunistic with 28 points off 18 turnovers in
Friday’s 66-55 win over USC. Oscar Bellfield scored 14 points and
Mike Moser added 10 and 13 rebounds.
Moser has four double-doubles and leads the team in scoring
(15.0 points per game) and rebounding (13.0) in his first season
after transferring from UCLA.
North Carolina won the last meeting 102-78 on Dec. 4, 1999, and
leads the series 3-0. All three matchups came with the Tar Heels
ranked in the top five.