Published November 22, 2011
| Sports Network
Chapel Hill, NC – The top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels conference action at the Smith Center.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels have certainly looked the part of the top team in the land, posting three straight double-digit wins to the start the year, including a 101-75 rout of Mississippi Valley State in first-round action of this event on Sunday.
Tennessee State opened the new season with back-to-back losses to Saint Louis and Western Kentucky, but the Tigers have bounced back with two straight wins, including recording their first-ever win against an SEC foe, with Sunday's 64-63 win at South Carolina. It also marked TSU's first win over a team from a major conference since 2007.
This is the first time that these two programs have met on the hardwood.
Tennessee State took advantage of a poor shooting effort by South Carolina in the first half, taking a 14-point lead into halftime and then holding on for the win in Columbia. Robert Covington led the charge with a near double- double, posting team-highs with 16 points and nine rebounds. Jordan Cyphers added 12 points off the bench, while Patrick Miller chipped in with 11 points, while doling out six assists. The Tigers have struggled at the offensive end this season, averaging 57.8 ppg, shooting just .379 from the floor overall and .290 from three-point range. Covington has been the only consistent threat both in the scoring column and on the boards, averaging 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game thus far.
The Tar Heels have excelled at both ends of the court this season, enjoying a +18.0 scoring margin in the early going. UNC is shooting .500 from the floor and putting up 86.3 ppg. The one weakness thus far has been a lack of long distance accuracy, hitting just 28.9 percent from three-point range. The best frontcourt in the country resides in Chapel Hill, as Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller are all dominant playmakers. Barnes and Zeller are tied for the team-lead in scoring at 17.3 ppg and combine for 13.7 rpg. Henson has been even better down low, averaging 16.7 ppg, while pacing UNC in both rebounding (11.0 rpg) and blocked shots (12). Henson posted 18 points and 14 rebounds in the hope-opener against Mississippi Valley State. Barnes also poured in 18 points, followed by Zeller (16 points, 10 rebounds), Dexter Strickland (13 points) and Reggie Bullock (11 points).