Top-10 foes square off in Big Ten/ACC Challenge
Chapel Hill, NC – Coming off their first loss of the season, ranked North Carolina Tar Heels welcome the ninth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers to Chapel Hill to take part in this year's Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Roy Williams' squad started the year as the top team in the country and certainly looked the part for the first five games. However, in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational, UNC met its match, falling 90-80 to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels. Now the Tar Heels return home seeking a quick turnaround. Following this matchup, UNC travels to Lexington to take on new number-one ranked Kentucky.
Bo Ryan's Badgers have yet to taste defeat on the season, winning all six of its games thus far in lopsided affairs. Wisconsin was involved in a tournament as well last week, winning the Chicago Invitational with a 73-56 victory over BYU in the title game.
This is just the second time these two teams have met. North Carolina won the only other meeting, an 88-82 decision in the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
The 56 points by BYU represent the most Wisconsin has allowed this season by far. The defensive pressure has been suffocating for the Badgers, who lead the nation in scoring defense (39.2 ppg) and field-goal percentage defense (.305). At the offensive end, Wisconsin has been deadly from long range, ranking second nationally in three-point field goal percentage (.472) and second nationally in three-pointers made (11.3 per game). Four Badgers are averaging double figure scoring, led by Ben Brust's 12.8 ppg. Jared Berggren is next at 12.3 ppg. Jordan Taylor though, is the leader on the floor for Wisconsin and has the ability to do it all, averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. Josh Gasser adds 10.2 ppg and has been shooting the lights out from downtown at a .714 clip (15-of-21). Brust erupted for 21 points in the win over BYU. Taylor finished with 18 points and eight assists, while Mike Bruesewitz added 13 points in the win.
UNC failed to cover UNLV sharpshooters, who cleared 13-of-32 from long range, compared to just four treys for the Tar Heels. Harrison Barnes and P.J. Hairston led the way offensively with 15 points each. Dexter Strickland added 12 points to the cause, while John Henson tacked on 11 points and eight rebounds. However, UNC was outrebounded 48-39 and shot a mere .306 from the floor in the second half, turning a four-point first half lead into a 10-point loss. Despite the bad half, North Carolina is still shooting over 50 percent from the floor on the season, leading to 88.0 ppg. The team is fueled by arguably the nation's best frontcourt. Barnes leads the way with 17.3 ppg. Henson is a monster in the low post with 15.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Tyler Zeller mans the middle, averaging 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per outing. Point guard Kendall Marshall is the court general and although he isn't much of a scorer (4.8 ppg), there may not be a better distributor in the country at 10.8 assists per game.