Of the nine game home stand the game between fourth/sixth ranked North Carolina (7-2) and Long Beach State (4-4) could be the toughest one for head coach Roy Williams’ squad. UNC is going to go up against a squad who has won against future ACC foe Pittsburgh and played tough against Louisville and Kansas, with the latter being played this past week, in a game that was a lot harder than it should have been. Let’s also remember that this team gave a hard game to UNC last season, with the Heels winning by five after the Aces scored 57 points in the second 20 minutes. If the Tar Heels do not give another good performance they too will be in for a much tougher game than most of the fans coming to the Dean Dome will expect. Unlike many other non-conference games that the Heels played early on and will play after this one, tonight what the opponents do will count just as much as what the home squad does.
“We talked about we have a stretch here where we play a lot of games at home,” coach Roy Williams said. “We’ve got to try to get better. … Let’s use this to help our team.”
Another game like the one they just played and UNC should have no problem winning this game easily. They will be playing a team that just like the Heels likes to run up and down, and that means that point guard Kendall Marshall should be able to find his way to another double digit assists. I am sure that the front court, including Tyler Zeller who is one point away from 1K points as a Heel, should have a good game if they run the floor well. But the key is this on offense, the team needs to show they can play well when it’s a half court game in a match where they will be running as much as they can. The other thing I will be looking for is how much coach Williams plays the ones that had small injuries. In all, against a team like this one, the NBA-like front court that Carolina has should be able to be the key in the game. However, since it has been working, I am hoping to see the Heels hit from the outside as well, opening up the spaces and the paint for the bigs. One player I want to see shoot and hit will be Marshall, since the floor general can be even more important if the opposition has to guard him for the shot as well.
On the defensive side I just want to see intensity from the first to the last play in the game. Teams like LBSU do not quit, as well UNC should know this since they played them last year and the game turned into a way too close for confort one in the second half. Long Beach State only goes seven deep and making them work hard on both sides of the floor is going to wear them down, especially if UNC’s bench can come off and play without giving up much. Most of the scoring comes from four of the starters and if UNC can make them wear down and get in foul trouble there should be no problems in this one. The Aces do have a guard, senior Casper Ware, as the top scorer and that is always something that scares me, but with the size advantage, the LBSU guard is only 5’10”, that UNC has and the speed Dexter Strickland possess I am not as worried as I would be a year ago.
This game should be an interesting one as the team is about to break for holidays, they are on a 52 game non conference winning streak at home and have played good in the last three games, even if one was a loss. Against a team like tonight’s opponent the Heels must play for forty minutes, on both sides of the ball, playing patented Carolina ball, which means run if you can and if not the play begins by going inside first. If they do I believe that UNC will win this one by double digits, with the final score being 92 to 76.