The North Carolina Tar Heels put a pair of lengthy winning streaks on the line tonight, as they entertain the Colonels of Nicholls State at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
Nicholls State opened the season with three straight losses, and setbacks in six of its first seven overall. But the Colonels have turned a corner in the last 10 days, winning three of four to climb within three games of the .500 mark. A member of the Southland Conference, NSU blasted Dillard in its most recent outing on Friday night, 92-48. It was the second time in the last four games that the Colonels scored 92 points -- this after averaging just 63.7 points in their first seven tilts.
Meanwhile, North Carolina comes in sporting a 9-2 record, and the Tar Heels are 6-0 at home. Actually, UNC has won 22 straight home games, and 52 in a row at home against non-conference foes. The Tar Heels' last non-conference loss at the Smith Center came on November 29, 2005, to Illinois in a 68-64 final. Coach Roy Williams' squad handled Appalachian State, 97-82, at the Smith Center on Saturday, running its current win streak to three games. The Heels' only losses this season have come against UNLV and Kentucky, both away from home. This game marks the fourth in a nine-game homestand, and North Carolina will host Texas on Wednesday in what should be the team's next real test. The team's ACC slate gets underway in Chapel Hill against Boston College on January 7.
North Carolina won the only other meeting between these two teams, taking an 88-78 decision at home in 2006.
Nicholls State took on winless Dillard last Friday, and routed the visiting Bleu Devils by 44 points. Trevon Lewis led all scorers with 19 points, and he added five rebounds, three assists to his stat line, and he was one of six Colonels to finish in double figures. Jeremy Smith logged a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes of action off the bench. NSU shot 54.2 percent from the floor, nailing nine three-pointers, while holding its overmatched opponent to 35.7 percent field goal efficiency and goading them into 24 turnovers. Lewis and Chris Talkington are the only Colonels averaging double digits in scoring for the season, netting 14.0 and 12.0 ppg, respectively for a team that generates 68.4 ppg. Where Nicholls State has struggled most is at the defensive end, as foes are averaging just shy of 80 ppg while laying claim to a +8.4 rebounding advantage.
Tyler Zeller shot 11-of-15 from the field on his way to 31 points, and he added 10 rebounds in leading North Carolina to its 15-point over visiting Appalachian State on Saturday. John Henson contributed 17 points and six boards, while P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock chipped in 10 points apiece in a combined 36 minutes of action off the bench. The Tar Heels made good on 54.5 percent of their field goal attempts, but went just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. UNC attempted 33 free throws compared to only 17 for APU, and the Heels were guilty of only seven turnovers. Through 11 games, Harrison Barnes is the team's leading scorer with 16.7 ppg, while Zeller and Henson are hot on his heels with 15.2 ppg apiece. Henson comes up with 10.2 ppg, and Kendall Marshall is handing out a staggering 10.5 apg for a team that lights up the scoreboard to the tune of 85.3 ppg, while surrendering 69.5 ppg. Hitting almost half of their field goal attempts (.493), and better than 41 percent of their three-pointers, the Tar Heels also own favorable margins in both rebounding (+6.1) and turnovers (+1.3).