The 23rd-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels return home to the Smith Center on Saturday afternoon to play host to the McNeese State Cowboys in non-conference action.
After winning its opener over Louisiana College (72-54), McNeese State suffered a three-game losing streak, but it has bounced back beautifully in recent weeks by notching five straight wins. After logging impressive victories over Louisiana (77-72) and Louisiana Tech (80-72) earlier in the month, the Cowboys went on the road on Dec. 16 and shocked Texas Tech, 80-75, for their first-ever win over a Big 12 Conference program.
North Carolina opened the season with wins in each of its first five games, but went through a mini-slide by dropping two of three to Butler (82-71) and No. 1 Indiana (83-59). The Tar Heels kicked off the month of December with a perfect 3-0 homestand, but their standing among the nation's top-25 in the next poll has been put in question following an uninspiring 85-67 loss at Texas on Wednesday night.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
McNeese State trailed by nine points at Texas Tech midway through the second half, but it went on a 21-7 run to take a five-point lead with 6:38 to play, and it would never surrender that advantage as it held on for the outstanding road win. The Cowboys shot an impressive 55.9 percent from the field, which helped overcome 20 turnovers. Craig McFerrin came off the bench to shoot 8- of-11 from the floor for 18 points. Kevin Hardy and Ledrick Eackles each scored 13 points, while Desharick Guidry added 12 points and six rebounds. McNeese State is averaging 69.6 ppg on the season behind 45.5 percent field goal efficiency, but it has not been nearly as successful from 3-point range (.298). McFerrin has only appeared in two games but he has made a lasting impression with 16.0 ppg. Guidry has been a reliable presence in the low post with 13.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg and 1.0 bpg. Dontae Cannon (12.6 ppg) and Hardy (10.8 ppg) each hand out at least four assists per contest, while Jeremie Mitchell rounds out the unit's double-digit scorers with 10.6 ppg.
In a sluggish effort at both ends of the court on Wednesday, UNC trailed wire- to-wire in the 18-point loss to Texas, shooting a low 31.3 percent from the floor in the process (including 3-of-19 from 3-point range). Rising above the rest of his teammates was Reggie Bullock, who netted 18 points while pulling down a career-high 13 rebounds. James Michael McAdoo barely missed a double- double with 14 points and nine boards, while also adding six assists. The Tar Heels' poor performance was more the exception than the rule this season, as they are making 45.3 percent of their field goal attempts for an average of 82.8 ppg, the latter stat ranking in the top-10 nationally. McAdoo has been one of the ACC's best forwards, tallying 15.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg and 1.7 spg, all while shooting 47.2 percent from the floor. Bullock adds 12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 3.2 apg while converting a lofty 45.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc (24-of-53). P.J. Hairston (11.4 ppg) has been an effective sixth man, and Dexter Strickland (8.9 ppg) runs the point and leads the team in both assists (4.6 apg) and steals (1.9 spg).