Sports

Tar Heels take aim at Eagles in ACC affair

Chestnut Hill, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - With their sights set on ending a two- game slide, the 12th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels embark on a three-game road trip, starting with Saturday's ACC clash with the Boston College Eagles at the Conte Forum.

Roy Williams' Tar Heels were near the top of the ACC standings just a week ago, but back-to-back losses to Louisville (78-68 OT) and Virginia (75-64) have left the team at 17-6 overall. Now at 7-3 in league play, UNC is in fourth place in the conference standings.

Jim Christian's Eagles are near the bottom of the conference, with an ugly 1-8 league ledger. Boston College comes into this game with a three-game losing streak in tow following Wednesday's 71-63 setback to Notre Dame.

UNC holds an 11-5 advantage in the all-time series with Boston College and has won five straight meetings and nine of the last 11 overall.

The first half proved to be a tight contest between North Carolina and Virginia, but the Cavaliers put the defensive clamps on the Tar Heels in the second half and rolled to victory. After shooting .519 from the floor over the first 20 minutes, UNC managed a mere .379 in the second stanza and couldn't keep pace with the Cavs. Marcus Paige led the way in defeat with 15 points. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks finished in double figures as well, with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

Strong offensive performances have fueled UNC's success this season, usually centered around dominant frontcourt play. The team is averaging 78.8 ppg on a healthy .466 shooting, while boasting of a +9.5 rebounding margin. Paige is the straw that stirs the drink in Chapel Hill, pacing the team in both scoring (14.2 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg). Meeks (12.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Johnson (11.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg) are a formidable frontcourt duo. Both are shooting over 56 percent from the floor. Justin Jackson (10.0 ppg) and J.P. Tokoto (8.7 ppg) provide even more options at the offensive end.

The Eagles will be hard-pressed to match UNC's offensive efforts should the game turn into a shootout. Boston College is averaging a modest 64.1 ppg, despite having a couple of top-notch scoring threats in guards Olivier Hanlan and Aaron Brown. Hanlan is among the league leaders once again in scoring, netting 17.0 ppg (fifth in the ACC). He also tops the team in assists (4.7 apg) and steals (31). Brown adds 14.7 ppg (11th in the conference). The two have combined for 80 of the team's 133 3-pointers to date.

Notre Dame jumped all over Boston College this week, opening with a 34-9 run to start the game, but to the Eagles' credit, they chipped away and made a game of it in the second half. Hanlan was superb in defeat, scoring a game- high 28 points thanks in large part to his 6-of-9 effort from behind the arc. Brown wasn't quite as efficient as Hanlan, but his 4-of-14 effort from the floor and 3-of-6 from the free-throw line was good enough to give him 13 points in the loss.