Top-25 battle pits Tar Heels against Wildcats
Tucson, AZ (Sports Network) – A rare non-conference treat late in the season
takes place in the desert this afternoon, as the fourth-ranked North
Carolina Tar Heels come calling on the 17th-ranked Arizona Wildcats in
The Tar Heels have won three straight games and improved to 5-1 in ACC play
with Wednesday’s 88-60 rout of Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. Roy Williams’
squad has lost just twice this season, falling to Gonzaga in late November
and then again at Virginia Tech on January 13th.
The Wildcats on the other hand struggled in recent weeks, dropping three
consecutive tilts before responding in a big way against rival Arizona State
on Wednesday, 71-47. The lopsided win moved Lute Olson’s team to 14-5
overall, but only 5-4 in Pac-10 play.
This is the seventh all-time meeting between these two prolific programs,
with the series all knotted up at three games apiece. Last season North
Carolina posted an 86-69 win in Chapel Hill, the first meeting in this series
that did not occur at a neutral site.
The Tar Heels are an extremely young team, but the scary thing is, it hasn’t
mattered in 2006-07, as the team ranks second in the nation in scoring (87.6
ppg), getting it done on 50.4 percent shooting. Four of the top five scorers
are either freshman or sophomores, so the future is certainly bright in Chapel
Hill. All-American Tyler Hansbrough has definitely not suffered a sophomore
slump, as he leads the team in both scoring (18.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.1
rpg). He is followed in both categories by one of the nation’s premier
newcomers in freshman Brandan Wright (15.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg). The 6-9 phenom is
shooting a ridiculous .646 from the floor and leads the team with 34 blocked
shots. Other freshmen of note include guard Wayne Ellington (12.4 ppg, .404
from three-point range) and Ty Lawson (9.0 ppg, team-high 101 assists). In the
rout of Wake Forest, Ellington led five Tar Heels in double figures with 18
points. Lawson poured in 15 points, Hansbrough just missed a double-double
with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Wright and Danny Green chipped in 12
Arizona has the personnel to win a shootout with any team in the nation and
that includes the explosive Tar Heels. The Wildcats are converting just about
half of their shots thus far (.499), resulting in a healthy scoring average of
83.4 ppg. All five starters are averaging double figures, but the strength
lies in the frontcourt, with a trio of athletic forwards. Marcus Williams
leads the team with 18.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per. He is followed closely
by Ivan Radenovic (16.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Chase Budinger (15.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
The backcourt is no slouch either, with guards Mustafa Shakur (14.2 ppg, 7.6
apg) and Jawann McClellan (11.7 ppg) making their presence felt. Despite not
having Williams in the lineup last time out (one-game suspension), Arizona was
able to make light work of the Sun Devils. The team shot 50 percent from the
floor overall, as four of the team’s five starters notched double digits.
Budinger led the charge with a huge double-double, finishing with 21 points
and 10 rebounds. McClellan added 14 points, followed by Jordan Hill, who
filled in admirably for Williams, netting 12 points and grabbing nine boards.
Radenovic finished things off with 11 points.