Coral Gables, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to recover from a bit of a downward spiral, the 15th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will hit the road for an Atlantic Coast Conference clash with the Hurricanes of Miami-Florida Saturday at the BankUnited Center.
North Carolina comes into the weekend having lost three of its last four games, with a 58-46 defeat at the hands of heated in-state rival NC State sticking out as the latest loss on Tuesday. That has dropped the Tar Heels back to 9-6 against conference competition on the season.
Miami is looking to pick it up as the regular season winds down. The Hurricanes have won three of their last four games, and nearly took down a ranked Louisville squad last weekend in a 55-53 loss. The 'Canes are coming off an 81-77 victory over Florida State, which boosted the team's ACC record to 8-7.
This will be the 25th meeting all-time between North Carolina and Miami. The Heels have dominated the series, leading 18-6. The last time they met on the court was last January, when Miami prevailed by a 63-57 margin.
NC State has picked up its play lately against ACC competition, and that really showed on Tuesday as the Wolfpack took down North Carolina using a strong defensive effort. NC State held UNC to a mere 34.5 percent shooting from the floor, with a 3-of-12 mark from 3-point distance. Justin Jackson led the charge for the Tar Heels in scoring, netting 16 points in the loss. Kennedy Meeks tallied a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds, adding in three blocked shots for the Heels, who were outrebounded by the Wolfpack, 41-38.
Some of North Carolina's top players were rendered ineffective against the Wolfpack, like UNC's top scorer Marcus Paige, who netted seven points with seven assists in the loss to the Wolfpack. Paige is scoring 13.3 ppg on 39.7 percent shooting from the floor, adding in a team-best 126 assists (4.5 apg ranks fourth in the conference this season). Meeks checks in behind Paige with 12.8 ppg, and Brice Johnson contributes 12.5 ppg to round out a trio of double-digit scorers for the Tar Heels. Meeks and Johnson share the team's lead on the boards, each grabbing 7.8 rpg. North Carolina as a unit is connecting on 47.1 percent of its field goal tries this season for 78.3 ppg, which ranks third in the league in scoring per outing. The team is giving up 68.5 ppg to opponents, however.
Miami and Florida State battled back and forth for the better part of Wednesday's contest in Tallahassee. The Hurricanes took a four-point lead over the Seminoles when the teams broke for halftime, and at one point built it to as many as 18 points over FSU with just under five minutes to play before the Seminoles came roaring back. The 'Canes held on in the end for the win thanks to a standout performance from Angel Rodriguez, who scored 25 points with five assists and four rebounds. Sheldon McClellan netted 19 points, and Davon Reed chipped in with 18 and eight rebounds. Tonye Jekiri tallied a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards in the team's four-point win.
McClellan and Rodriguez are the two go-to players for the Hurricanes on the offensive end of the floor. McClellan tops the team with 15.0 ppg, while Rodriguez follows suit at 12.8 ppg. McClellan is connecting on 51.7 percent of his attempts from the floor, and Rodriguez helps out with 122 assists and 55 steals (2.0 spg is tied for the league lead). Jekiri contributes 8.8 ppg for the Hurricanes, and adds in a league-best 10.6 rpg. Miami is netting 68.6 ppg as a team on 43.6 percent shooting, and is holding opponents to just 63.1 ppg through 28 contests.