Where: Roberts Stadium, Evansville, IN
When: Wednesday, December 8th, 7:00 PM
Records: UNC 5-3; Evansville 3-3
The welcome home Tyler Zeller game. Of course we all know what is going to happen next year right? UNC is going to get sent to Bloomington to play against his brother in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I'll be surprised if it doesn't happen.
I am tempted to tag this a "trap game" on principle alone. UNC is coming off an important win during which they played well(despite the shooting) and really looked like a group of players starting figure themselves out. Now the Heels go on the road to play a team they should beat handily against whom they enjoy a sizable advantage on the interior. The nagging worry I have is one of consistency. Will they remember what went right vs Kentucky and execute those things in this game or the next or the one after that? We saw a lot of good versus Kentucky to the point you could conclude had the Heels shot the ball better from the outside, they might be on their way to being legitimate again. If there was anything I would really watch for it would be the Heels doing the kinds of things that made a difference vs UK. Starting the offense with the bigs. Larry Drew being aggressive with the drive. Harrison Barnes looking for his offense in different places. Suffocating defense on the perimeter.
It should be noted that Evansville did knock off Butler and despite the Bulldogs' struggles, I would not readily dismiss that win as a fluke. Plus this is a home game for the Purple Aces so the Heels should not take it as a cake walk. It will come as no surprise to you that Evansville's leading scorer is a guard, 6-5 Colt Ryan averaging 16.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.8 apg and 1.2 spg. Ryan is also shooting 56% from three on 18-32 shooting from beyond the arc. Yep, nothing like facing an opposing guard who lights it up from outside! Ryan will likely be Dexter Strickland's responsibility to keep in check or possibly Harrison Barnes since he is bigger. Interestingly Evansville has two big wing players in Ryan and SF Kenny Harris who is 6-6. Ryan and Harris are also the leading rebounders for the team. That means Evansville prefers to play small as also evidenced by the fact 6-10 Pieter van Tongeren and 6-8 Clint Hopf are averaging 19 and 13 mpg respectively. The top four players in terms of minutes per game range from 6-0 to 6-6. UNC should exploit the size advantage early and often assuming Evansville does not use a zone, which is what I would do if I were undersized facing a team that is shooting 33% from the perimeter.
This game is a test to see if what happened vs Kentucky is repeatable with the added bonus(we hope!) of better perimeter shooting to balance the offense.
UNC 81 Evansville 65