North Carolina (7-3) vs. Texas (8-2)
Greensboro, N.C. -- Greensboro Coliseum
4 p.m. -- CBS (Verne Lundquist, Clark Kellogg)
“My impression of Texas is that they will be a physical team like they were last year. They’re always physical underneath. They’ve got some pretty good shooters.” – UNC assistant head coach Joe Holladay
“We haven’t played as well as we can since New York, but I don’t think we’ve had a bad practice.” – Texas head coach Rick Barnes on his team's play over the last three weeks
Season to Date: No. 25 Texas enters Saturday’s contest with an 8-2 overall record. Rick Barnes’s 13th squad in Austin played well through its first seven games, knocking off No. 13 Illinois in overtime (90-84) with only one blemish on its slate – a 68-66 loss to No. 4 Pittsburgh in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. But the Longhorns inexplicably lost to Southern Cal, 73-56, on Dec. 5 before rolling over Texas State and North Florida in their last two outings.
Wing and a Prayer: The Longhorns needed someone to step up after Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Avery Bradley starting cashing NBA paychecks, and Jordan Hamilton wasted little time in filling that void. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound sophomore is currently leading his team in scoring with 18.9 points and stands third in rebounding (6.9 rpg). Hamilton is not afraid to fire at will, as evidenced by his 147 field goal attempts on the season – 61 more than his closest teammate. He has converted 44.2 percent of his field goals, including a strong 41.1 percent mark (23-of-56) from long range.
Savvy Veteran: Gary Johnson is a textbook example of how the typical college basketball player develops through his career. The forward has worked in the frontcourt rotation since arriving in Austin via Houston in the summer of ’07, earning 27 starts in 98 career games. But now as one of only two seniors in the starting lineup, Johnson has emerged as a go-to player this season, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.7 ppg) on 51.2 percent shooting (42-of-82) while pulling down a team-best 8.0 rebounds per outing.
Defensively Stout: Texas has held its first 10 opponents to an average of 61.2 points per game on 35.6 percent shooting, including a 28.8 percent mark from 3-point range. The Longhorns have held six of their opponents to below 40 percent and three under 30 percent shooting, thanks to a defense that has forced nearly twice as many turnovers (149) as it has allowed in assists (85).
Ronald McDonald is a Fan: What’s the best way to replace three NBA draft picks? Sign a couple of McDonald’s All Americans, of course. Rookie guard Corey Joseph has emerged as a legitimate option in filling Avery Bradley’s shoes during his last five outings, averaging a team-best 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while connecting on 51.9 percent (27-of-52) of his field goal attempts. Classmate Tristan Thompson has helped fill the massive crater left by Damion James and Dexter Pittman by scoring 11.3 points and pulling down 7.6 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward also leads the team in blocked shots (23).
Lights Out from Downtown: The trio of Hamilton, Joseph and J’Covan Brown have combined to shoot 39.1 percent from 3-point territory this season, knocking down 52 of their 133 attempts.
Last Meeting: No. 10 North Carolina’s late rally cut No. 2 Texas’s 17-point second-half lead to four points with seven minutes to play, but the Tar Heels were unable to get any closer in losing, 103-90, at Cowboys Stadium on Dec. 19, 2009. Longhorns forward Damion James posted a game-high 25 points, 15 rebounds and four steals, while center Dexter Pittman added 23 points, 15 boards and two blocks to pace Texas in front of 38,052 fans in the first basketball game played at Cowboys Stadium. Ed Davis led the Tar Heels with 21 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, and Tyler Zeller added 16 points (7-of-8 FG) off the bench.
Series History:Texas holds a 3-2 lead in the all-time series with North Carolina.
4 Dogus Balbay (6-1, 175, Sr.) – 4.6 ppg, 2.3 apg
5 Corey Joseph (6-3, 185, Fr.) – 11.0 ppg, 2.9 apg
3 Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 220, So.) – 18.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg
1 Gary Johnson (6-6, 238, Sr.) – 11.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg
13 Tristan Thompson (6-8, 225, Fr.) – 11.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg
14 J'Covan Brown (6-1, 195, So.) – 9.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg
10 Jai Lucas (5-10, 160, Sr.) – 5.2 ppg, 1.8 apg
20 Alexis Wangmene (6-7, 240, Jr.) – 3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
21 Matt Hill (6-10, 245, Sr.) – 1.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg
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