The fifth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels have an outstanding opportunity to add another victory to their already impressive record when they play host to the Monmouth Hawks today at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
Monmouth opened the season with eight consecutive losses before posting back- to-back victories. Unfortunately, the team has suffered three straight defeats since that modest winning streak, and the Hawks fell to 2-11 overall with a 69-54 setback to Lafayette on Wednesday. Obviously, today's game marks a major leap in competition level for Monmouth, which is 1-7 in true road games.
North Carolina has run off six consecutive victories to move to 13-2 overall, and one of its two losses this season came to Kentucky on the road by a single point. The Tar Heels were most recently in action on Thursday when they cruised to a 100-62 decision over Elon, and five of the six games during the current winning streak have come by double digits.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between Monmouth and North Carolina on the hardwood.
There is only one double-digit scorer on the Monmouth roster, as Jesse Steele is averaging 11.2 ppg, a figure that would be better if not for his 38.4 percent shooting from the field. The Hawks have struggled to generate offense this season, as they are scoring just 59.9 ppg on 38.6 percent field goal efficiency, including 27 percent from three-point range. Defensively, Monmouth has plenty of room for improvement, as it is yielding 78.7 ppg on 50.9 percent shooting from the floor by opponents. In the 15-point loss to Lafayette last time out, Will Campbell scored 12 points to pace the Hawks, while Steele chipped in with 11. Monmouth shot just 30.5 percent from the floor, including 5-of-20 from three-point range, and the offensive inefficiency was the most obvious reason for the setback.
Four of the five North Carolina starters reached double digits in scoring in the team's romp over Elon on Thursday. Tyler Zeller registered a double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, as did John Henson with his 16-point, 11- rebound effort. Harrison Barnes posted 18 points and five assists, while Dexter Strickland registered 10 points. Star point guard Kendall Marshall was tremendous once again, handing out eight assists against just a single turnover. UNC earned a 64-35 rebounding advantage and a 17-3 edge in points from the foul line. Barnes is scoring 16.9 ppg and is widely regarded as one of the top frontcourt performers in all of college basketball. Henson adds 14.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg and more than three blocks per game to the mix, while Zeller is netting 14.4 ppg to go along with 8.7 rpg. The Tar Heels averaged a robust 87.1 ppg while limiting opponents to 67.0 ppg on 37.7 percent field goal efficiency.