Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - One of Saturday's marquee matchups pits the 12th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes against the 24th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels at the United Center in Chicago.
Ohio State has won nine of its first 10 games, which includes its current four-game win streak. The Buckeyes took down visiting North Carolina A&T with relative ease earlier this week, 97-55, and every one of their victories has been by double digits, albeit almost all against inferior opposition. The lone setback for coach Thad Matta's club took place on Dec. 2 at Louisville (64-55) as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
North Carolina opened the season with five wins in its first six games, but has split its last four. The Tar Heels bounced back from a double-digit loss at top-ranked Kentucky by blasting UNC Greensboro on Tuesday, 79-56. Coach Roy Williams' squad already has a pair of wins over ranked foes this season, having bested UCLA and Florida on consecutive days over Thanksgiving.
North Carolina leads the all-time series with Ohio State, 10-2, with the last encounter taking place during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York City on Nov. 19, 2009. The Tar Heels prevailed in a 77-73 final.
D'Angelo Russell poured in 21 points, and Marc Loving and Kam Williams added 15 points apiece, as Ohio State routed visiting North Carolina A&T on Wednesday night. The Buckeyes shot the ball well in draining 56.5 percent of their field goal attempts, which included a 7-of-19 showing from 3-point range. They also went a stellar 20-of-22 at the free-throw line, all while holding the Aggies to 37.9 percent efficiency. Shannon Scott finished the outing with eight points, 12 assists and seven steals.
Russell is netting 18 ppg as he continues to lead Ohio State's scoring barrage, which accounts for 84.2 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .537 overall, .418 from beyond the arc, and .721 at the charity stripe. The team's defensive stand yields only 56.9 ppg, and foes have found in especially tough to both shoot (.378) and hold on to the basketball (18.8 turnovers per game). Loving (11.3 ppg) and Sam Thompson (10.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg) round out the unit's double-digit scorers, while Scott (8.1 ppg, 7.8 apg, 3.0 spg), whose father played at UNC, serves as the team's primary playmaker.
A solid effort at both ends of the court propelled the Tar Heels to their recent win over UNC Greensboro, as they made good on 49.2 percent of their total shots, while limiting the Spartans to 35.7 percent success on their's. Neither team shot the ball well from distance, with UNC converting 3-of-14 3- point attempts and UNCG a mere 5-of-24. Kennedy Meeks scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds in 19 minutes of action for the Heels, while Joel James was the only other player to hit for double figures with 10 points. In all, 15 guys saw time on the floor, with a dozen showing up on the score sheet.
Despite shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point land, North Carolina is putting up 80 ppg. The team boasts three double-digit scorers in Meeks (13.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg), Marcus Paige (13.1 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Brice Johnson (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg), with two others close to joining them. The Heels are giving up only 64.9 ppg, as their enemies are converting just 35.6 percent of their total shots, which includes a dismal 25.2 percent effort from beyond the arc. Factor in a +8.6 rebounding margin and it's no wonder North Carolina is off to a solid start, even if it is somewhat underwhelming by its own lofty standards.