Where: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, December 10th, 7:00 PM
Records: UNC 7-2; LBSU 4-4
Remember when UNC played these guys last season? I really hope the players do.
UNC will face a very tough and dangerous Long Beach State team who already has a win over Pittsburg and two hard fought losses against Louisville and Kansas. The latter came Tuesday night in Lawrence, KS where LBSU fell behind big early but rallied to make themselves a general pest for the remainder of the game. As the 49ers proved last season and in games against ranked opponents this season is they are perfectly capable of hanging with teams and are not phases by playing on the road.
The goal for UNC in this game should be to come out for 40 minutes in this game the same way they did versus Evansville. While UNC clearly dominated an overmatched opponent on Tuesday night, they did so in an intense and focused fashion on both ends of the floor. UNC's attitude and demeanor in such games has been a source of consternation for Tar Heel fans who have thought maybe this team is a little too relaxed at times. Roy Williams thought the same thing apparently and wrote the words "no plays off" on the white board in the locker room before they took the Smith Center floor against the Purple Aces. That kind of attitude will be necessary in this one since LBSU is not a team to be taken lightly.
The true upside for UNC in this game lies in LBSU preferring to play on the uptempo side of things. The 49ers are 25th in tempo according to KenPom while UNC is 8th. That should point to the kind of game UNC wants to play unless LBSU discovers(as most teams do) that running with UNC is a bad idea. LBSU is not particularly dependent on the three point shot which probably will change once they take the floor versus UNC, mainly because UNC's interior defense will force them to take more outside shots. Last season the 49ers hit ten threes versus UNC in an upset bid that came up short. This season LBSU only has two players hitting 35% or more of their threes among the starters.
Among the 49ers to watch, LBSU point guard Casper Ware is averaging 17 ppg. Forward TJ Robinson is averaging 14.4 ppg and 10.8 rpg. LBSU has two other players averaging in double figures to round out most of their scoring. They also have four starters who average 30 minutes or more per game while only going seven deep in their rotation. UNC's tempo, even though LBSU is an uptempo team, could wear on them as will dealing with the Heels' size. This is where the Heels turning up the defensive pressure will make a huge difference.
Last year UNC lead by 14 at halftime but gave up 57 points in the second half to only win by five. I wouldn't bet on that happening again unless this team is simple a bad matchup for UNC a la UNLV.
UNC 96 LBSU 78