Las Vegas, NV – Two east coast rivals travel to Sin City as ranked North Carolina and South Carolina meet up in first-round action of the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena.
The Tar Heels have certainly looked the part of the best team in the country with four straight wins to start the new season. The team was last in action closing out regional action of this event with a 102-69 pasting of Tennessee State in Chapel Hill.
The Gamecocks have split their first four games. South Carolina lost to Tennessee State last weekend in regional action of this event but came back with a 61-57 win over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday, 61-57.
These two teams have met up 78 previous times, with North Carolina holding a 56-21 series advantage. UNC holds a 20-7 edge in neutral site matchups. This is the first meeting between these two programs since the 1996-97 season.
The Tar Heels have gotten the job done at both ends of the floor and are currently enjoying a +21.8 scoring margin as a result. The team is shooting an impressive 53.1 percent from the floor, leading to 90.2 ppg. The team possesses the nation's best frontcourt, with forwards Harrison Barnes (17.0 ppg) and John Henson (16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg) and center Tyler Zeller (16.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg). In the 102-point eruption against Tennessee State last time out, the starting frontcourt took a backseat to reserve Reggie Bullock, who came off the bench to pour in 23 points in 18 minutes of work. Barnes and Henson added 16 points apiece, while Zeller chipped in with 12. Point guard Kendall Marshall scored just five points, but doled out 15 assists.
South Carolina has struggled at the offensive end this season, eclipsing 63 points in just one of the four games thus far. The Gamecocks are netting 63.0 ppg thus far, on a poor .403 shooting. Consistent scoring options are few and far between thus far, with Malik Cooke and Eric Smith representing the best of the bunch at 11.8 and 10.3 ppg, respectively. The Gamecocks were able to escape their last game with a four-point win despite a seesaw battle with the Delta Devils. Cooke led the way with 18 points, going 10-of-12 from the free- throw line. Damien Leonard added a career-high 16 points.