Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The 15th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels put a four-game win streak on the line on Saturday, as they play host to the Florida State Seminoles in ACC action from the Dean E. Smith Center.
Roy Williams' Tar Heels are streaking right now with four straight victories and nine in their last 10 outings. The lone loss over that span was a narrow 71-70 defeat at the hands of Notre Dame on Jan. 5. The team most recently routed Wake Forest on the road on Wednesday, 87-71. The victory moved UNC to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in conference play, just a game behind second-ranked Virginia (6-0).
Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles are much further down the ACC ladder, as the team has struggled to a 2-4 mark in league play thus far, good for a tie for 10th place. Florida State was able to end a three-game slide in its last outing, knocking off Clemson on the road on Monday, 59-55. The win improved FSU to 10-7 overall. Hamilton now has 229 victories at FSU and needs just eight more to become the school's all-time leader in wins, topping J.K. Kennedy (236).
North Carolina holds a sizable 46-12 lead in the all-time series with Florida State. The Tar Heels have won four straight in the series. This is the only meeting between these two teams in the regular season this year.
It came down to the wire in a defensive struggle, but Florida State was finally able to hold off the hometown Tigers last time out and find its way back into the win column with a four-point victory at Littlejohn Coliseum. FSU shot .478 from the floor in the game, but was forced into 16 turnovers. Still, Florida State never trailed in the game. Xavier Rathan-Mayes led the way with a near double-double, finishing with 17 points and nine assists. Devon Bookert added 14 points to the cause.
On the season, Florida State is averaging 68.7 ppg on an efficient .465 shooting. However, the team is yielding nearly the same amount of points (68.1 ppg). The loss of Aaron Thomas (14.8 ppg) to suspension early on has certainly been problematic at the offensive end for the Seminoles. Others have had to step up and contribute as a result. Montay Brandon (13.2 ppg), Rathan-Mayes (12.7 ppg) and Bookert (10.5 ppg) have done their best to assuage the loss of Thomas.
The Tar Heels are starting to see a successful blueprint, as they continue to get the ball inside and allow their frontcourt stars to shine. It was more of the same against Wake Forest this week, as the team netted an impressive 50 points in the paint, en route to the lopsided victory. Forwards Brice Johnson (19 pts) and Kennedy Meeks (16 pts) combined for 35 points in the win, as both went 8-of-11 from the floor. Justin Jackson (17 pts) and Marcus Paige (12 pts) provided backcourt balance for UNC, which shot a sterling 60.3 percent from the floor overall.
North Carolina can really turn it on at the offensive end when everything is clicking. The Tar Heels are shooting a steady .463 from the field, leading to an impressive 79.4 ppg. The team also dominates on the glass, outrebounding opponents by 10.4 caroms per contest. Paige leads the way at the point, pacing the team with 13.5 ppg, while dishing out 4.1 apg. Meeks is the resident muscle down low. The 6-foot-9 sophomore is shooting just under 60 percent from the floor (.595) and is averaging 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Johnson (11.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) isn't far behind in either category. Jackson (10.1 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (9.1 ppg) round out the team's key contributors.