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Game Preview: #7 UNC vs Appalachian State

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina vs Appalachian State, 7:00 PM, ESPN2

UNC closes out the pre-Christmas portion of the schedule with a match-up against Appalachian State in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels are coming off an 89-76 win over UCLA in Brooklyn on Saturday and won two straight since losing Kennedy Meeks for an indefinite period of time to a bone bruise in his knee. Clearing the UCLA hurdle was an important step for the Tar Heels who now face a very manageable four game home stand before heading onto the road in ACC play.

That home stand starts with the Mountaineers from Appalachian State who are 0-5 all time against UNC and 0-3 in Chapel Hill losing by an average of 23.6 points in games played at the Dean Smith Center. It is unlikely the result will be any different. Appalachian possesses one of the worst defenses in the country and is below a point per possession on offense. Since the Mountaineers are not a team that players at a slower tempo(70.6 possessions per game) and is prone to turnovers(TO% of 22.0), there is a good chance UNC's high powered offense will see plenty of possessions.

The only real factor on how big of a thrashing this will be rests with how the Tar Heels approach this game. Coming off a key win versus UCLA and with possibly one eye on the door looking forward to a few days off, it is conceivable UNC won't provide a top level effort tonight. Throw in the Mountaineers ability to hit threes(39.1%) and it's possible this game could be closer than it would otherwise.

That being said, there aren't many players in the country hotter than Brice Johnson right now. After being benched for eight minutes after dropping some profanity in earshot of Roy Williams, the senior big man rolled to a career high 27 points versus UCLA on 11-12 shooting. In the two games since Meeks went out, Johnson is averaging 26.0 ppg and 9.5 rpg all while playing less than 30 minutes per contest. Johnson has yet to score in single digits this season. The Mountaineers have a handful of 6-8 players but none likely to give Johnson any issues.

Marcus Paige will also be coming off his first poor shooting game of the season. In the first four games since his return from a broken hand, Paige had been on fire with offensive ratings of 143, 123, 144 and 174 and shooting 56% from three. Against UCLA, Paige scored 10 points and had an offensive rating of 119 thanks to a pair of made threes and going 4-4 at the line. In between those two three points, Paige was 0-7 which included missing layups and having one three point attempt hit the side of the backboard. Paige likely bounced back in this game from a shooting standpoint.

Overall, regardless of UNC"s interest level, this should be an easy win.

UNC 105 Appalachian State 67