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UNC vs. Miami: Three things to watch

Key points for Carolina’s trip to south Florida

Virginia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The #9 North Carolina Tar Heels travel to Coral Gables to take on the Miami Hurricanes tomorrow at 1:00 PM ET. Carolina is coming off a 91-72 victory over Virginia Tech in the Smith Center and are seeking another precious ACC road win to maintain sole possession of first place in the ACC. Miami squeaked by Boston College at home on Wednesday, rebounding off of a thumping by Wake Forest and a collapse against Duke. Here are three things Tar Heel fans should watch Saturday afternoon against the U.

Can the Miami defense slow down Carolina?

Miami’s defense is allowing just 62.7 points per game. That is the third best in the ACC and 17th in the nation. They are limiting opponents to 39.9 percent from the floor, placing them at 31st in the nation. The Hurricanes are averaging 72.6 points scored per game, giving them a scoring margin of 9.8, placing them in the top 50 schools in the country in that statistical category.

On the flip side, the Tar Heels are the fourth highest scoring team in the country at 89.4 points per game, and have the top scoring margin in the ACC at 18.7, good for fifth in nation. And as of late, Carolina’s offense has been on a tear. Take a look at this factoid from Taylor Vippolis, GoHeels.com reporter:

Last night, the Heels hit a season-high 14 threes and had 20 second-chance points. There is a 26 point difference between UNC’s scoring offense and Miami’s scoring defense. Something has to give.

In the first half at Duke, Miami forced five turnovers and held the Blue Devils to just 28 percent from the floor, including missing all eight attempts from beyond the arc. An 11-point halftime lead for the Hurricanes turned into a 12-point loss due to Miami turnovers and a rejuvenated Duke offense. With Carolina’s slow starts on the road, a replication of that first half defensive effort by Miami could build a hole from which the Heels cannot escape.

What will Davon Reed do?

Miami’s leading scorer, senior guard Devon Reed, has been performing well the past five games despite a 2-3 team record in that span. Here is his stat line:

Game

FGM-FGA

FG%

3PM-3PA

3P%

FTM-FTA

FT%

Points

vs. ND

L 67-62

9-17

.529

2-7

.286

1-2

.500

21

at Pitt

W 72-46

6-11

.545

4-8

.500

2-2

1.000

18

at WF

L 96-79

8-17

.471

3-8

.375

5-5

1.000

24

at Duke

L 70-58

6-13

.462

5-8

.625

2-2

1.000

19

vs. BC

W 78-77

6-10

.600

2-5

.400

3-3

1.000

17

If Reed has one of those individual performances that has pestered Carolina on the road this season, what will be the response? As mentioned on this site and by commenters, perhaps defensive changes should occur sooner rather than later when someone is heating up. Do you think this is a symptom of defenses lapses, especially getting off screens, or is it just players making it happen against a top team? Kenny Williams had a great defensive and hustle game against Virginia Tech and hopefully Theo Pinson’s second half absence truly was just a precaution and will be available for this important stretch of the conference schedule.

Continued Improvements on the Defensive End

Against Virginia Tech, it did not seem as though the Hokies had a better percentage from the floor, yet they out shot the Tar Heels 51 percent to 49.3 percent. Of course, the differences for UNC were five more made three-pointers and almost double the amount of rebounds, including having more offensive rebounds than VT had defensive rebounds. At the beginning of the game, the Heels were struggling to get off screens and close the gaps on the perimeter. As the game progressed, Carolina did a better job forcing Virginia Tech to the outside and having to settle for jump shots. The Heels continued to make hustle plays on 50/50 balls throughout the game, which is a great sign for a team with big goals. In a game like the one against Virginia Tech, such an efficient and multifaceted offensive attack overshadows some of the mistakes on the defensive end. As the Heels go on the road, take a look at how Carolina works off the ball screens to cover open shooters and collapses on penetrating drives.

What will you be looking for in tomorrow’s matinee against the Hurricanes?