Battle of unbeatens on tap in Sin City
Las Vegas, NV – The top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and UNLV Runnin' Rebels will close out play in the Las Vegas Invitational as the two undefeated teams square off at the Orleans Arena in the championship game.
The Tar Heels have looked the part of the best team in the country, racing out to a 5-0 start to the year. That certainly takes into account, Friday's 25- point romp over South Carolina (87-62) in this event. Roy Williams' squad has won each of its five games this year by double digits, with the closest contest being the season-opener against Michigan State (67-55) on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson. Following this contest, UNC will play host to the Wisconsin Badgers as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Dave Rice has yet to tasted defeat in his first year at the helm in Sin City. as the Rebels are also sporting a flawless record, moving to 6-0 with 66-55 decision over USC on Friday. UNLV, which opened the season with five straight home games, will be on the road following this event, taking on UC Santa Barbara and Wichita State.
The Tar Heels have won all three previous meetings with UNLV, but these teams haven't met on the hardwood since 1999.
Oscar Bellfield scored 14 points to lead the Runnin' Rebels to an 11-point win over USC on Friday. Mike Moser had his third double-double of the year with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while Justin Hawkins added 10 points as well. The Rebels won despite USC shooting 52 percent from the field, while UNLV converted at just a 41-percent clip. The Rebels have plenty of scoring punch this season, averaging 80.3 ppg on a healthy 48-percent shooting. Moser leads the way both in the scoring column and on the boards, averaging 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. Bellfield is next in terms of scoring at 12.5 ppg, hitting over 42 percent from three-point range. Justin Hawkins and Chase Stanback provide adequate depth with 12.3 and 11.4 ppg, respectively.
Harrison Barnes poured in 21 points and freshman P.J. Hairston netted 19, as top-ranked North Carolina blew by South Carolina on Friday. John Henson continued his strong play inside with 18 points and eight rebounds in the victory. Point guard Kendall Marshall scored just four points in the win, but doled out 14 assists and recorded six steals against just one turnover. The Heels turned up the heat defensively against South Carolina, recording 11 steals overall and forcing 25 turnovers. North Carolina boasts of the nation's best frontcourt trio in Barnes, Henson and Tyler Zeller. Barnes leads the team in scoring at 17.8 ppg. Henson has been a monster inside, with 16.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, while amassing 17 blocks in the first five games. Zeller adds 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game to the mix. Marshall has been happy distributing the ball and already has 57 assists in the first five games, with just 13 total turnovers.