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UNC vs. Florida State: Three Things to Watch

The Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels head south to take on Florida State on Saturday. This is a critical matchup for both teams, as the teams are first and second in the ACC.

The two teams played each other in their conference openers. Little did we know about the resiliency of this Carolina team when they stormed back from a 14-point deficit to win by eight.

Tomorrow’s game is on the road, and you know the Donald L. Tucker Center will be packed to see the third-ranked team in the country. Another tough test for the Heels.

Here are three things to watch during the game tomorrow afternoon.

Avoiding the Slow Start

We know teams show up when UNC is on the court. Combine that with a sold-out crowd in an opposing gym, a fight for the top spot in the conference, and a chance to take down a top-five team. It is only that much tougher for Carolina.

The great statistical work by Chris Gallo shows that the slower starts for UNC are not a tremendous concern, but it is an interesting trend in conference play.

In six of eight conference games, Carolina was losing in the first ten minutes of play.

Which one of the above is not like the other?

The Tar Heels had a negative point differential versus the Seminoles through 30 minutes of game time.

Carolina’s 22-point run in the second half led them to victory. And as seen throughout conference play, this team is so good after halftime.

After the upset by Lipscomb in Tallahassee, FSU has won six of seven, all in conference play.

The Seminoles will be hungry for this one. The Tar Heels must not be in a hole to start the game.

Getting to the Rim

In their last game versus Syracuse, Florida State struggled with Orange guard Judah Mintz.

Mintz tied his career-highs in points (28) and free throw attempts (15). He tied his career-high by getting to the rim. Mintz attempted just one three-pointer against FSU.

Syracuse was marred by 16 turnovers and a career night from Seminoles forward Jamir Watkins, and FSU pulled away late in the second half for an 85-69 victory.

However, the issues for Florida State in stopping penetration in the lane present an opportunity for Carolina.

As seen against Wake Forest, once UNC established an inside-out game, everything fell into place for the Tar Heels.

This has become less of an issue as this team matures during the season, but remembering to stick to the offensive game plan is a must in a hostile road environment.

A key to victory for Florida State will be limiting Carolina’s rebounding ability. This game has the top team for rebounding margin in the league (UNC) against the worst (FSU).

Perimeter Defense

In the first meeting in December, Florida State shot 12-28 from three, hitting 42.9 percent of their long-range attempts.

FSU’s outside performance ranks as the second-highest number of makes and percentage for a Carolina opponent this season.

Despite a regression against Louisville (8-18, 44.4 percent), UNC’s perimeter defense against ACC opponents has been impressive.

The third-best performance from beyond the arc for an ACC opponent was a 4-19 (21.1 percent) shooting performance by Syracuse.

If the Seminoles cannot get it done in the paint, they must look elsewhere for points.

Charlotte native Darin Green, Jr. is the top outside shooter for Florida State. He ranks sixth in the ACC in three-pointers made (48) and seventh in three-point shooting percentage (39.7 percent).

A North Carolina native going up against UNC in a big game? Say no more.

The good news is UNC is the top perimeter defense team in the conference, holding opponents to just 28.5 percent from beyond the arc.

Let’s see if the Tar Heels continue their trend of impressive defensive performances.