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November 23, 2013

Louisville-UNC Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC bounced back nicely from their first loss of the year when they defeated the Richmond Spiders 82- 72. The win was sparked by career highs from Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson while shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc.

This might not be the most talented team UNC's ever put on the court (which is a testament to the talent level of past teams) but they do have an emerging star in Paige.

They'll need him to continue his ascent up the ACC scoring charts and if he can become "The Man" it may allow UNC's coaching staff to put to rest all of the questions about P.J. Hairston (as it pertains to on-court issues).

While the win over Richmond was huge, the Tar Heels will now take on the defending national champs in about as big an early season test you'll ever see.

Here are some storylines to pay attention to heading into Sunday's match-up.

Marcus Paige

Hairston might eventually make it back on the court this season but he might be hard pressed to get the ball out of Paige's hands. Whether they leave Paige in the starting line-up and shift him to the point guard position, Paige has earned his keep and the right to take as many shots as he'd like.

The thing that stood out most about Paige last season had nothing to do with his on-court performance.

His demeanor was always even-keeled and he spoke like a man wise beyond his years. Roy Williams raved about him, even during games where he didn't perform well.

That determined attitude was clearly put to work during the offseason and it's showing up in Paige's stats. He's shooting 44 percent from behind the 3-point (34 percent last season), 48 percent from the field (35 percent last season), 88 percent from the line (83 percent last season) and is averaging 18 points per game (8 last season).

Paige brought the ball up the court more against Richmond than he has all season long and indicates that Williams is more comfortable letting his "tough little nut" handle the rock as often as possible.

He's the guy that's most likely to create his shot and it doesn't look like this hot streak is going to end anytime soon.

Russ Smith

It will be a battle between point guards as Paige will go head-to-head with the senior leader of the Cardinals Russ Smith.

Taking over from Peyton Siva as the full-time point main, Smith is averaging 18 points per game this year but most of that average comes off the strength of the 51 points he put up in the first two games of the season.

Since that two-game stretch Smith has only averaged 11 points per game and shot less than 40 percent in two of those games. You could say he's struggling but it would be smart to assume he's due for an explosion on a national stage against a team like UNC.

Smith is averaging 5 fewer minutes than he did last year but at this point it's likely because the Cardinals are blowing everyone out. This game should be the stiffest test they've play thus far and he probably won't take any unnecessary breathers in this one.

Look for Paige and Smith to run the ball up the court early and often and get the tempo going.

Gearing Up

Get used to seeing these two teams go at it. They'll be conference rivals soon enough.

Williams and Louisville coach Rick Pitino are tied for seventh in Final Four appearances with both legendary coaches making seven trips to the big dance in March.

Between them, they've won three of the last 10 national championships. When you add in Syracuse and Duke's national titles, current, future and soon to be ex-ACC teams have accounted for seven of the last 15 national titles.

This early season match-up is a nice tune-up for UNC as they prepare to play this type of schedule every year. With a big game against Kentucky in a couple weeks to go along with this one, a young team still finding its way should have all the experience it needs heading into conference play. It's up to them to make it valuable experience.

 #2/3 Louisville
(5-0, 0-0)
#19/24 North Carolina
(3-1, 0-0)

Game Day
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Time: 1:00 PM EST
Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena (10,000)

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius -/XM -)

Louisville at a glance
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Nickname: Cardinals
Colors: Red & Black
Conference: American Athletic
Arena: KFC Yum! Center (22,000)
2012-2013 Record: 35-5 (17-4)
Last Game: W 71-57 over Fairfield on Saturday to earn trip to finals of Hall of Fame Tipoff.
More on the Cardinals:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Fairfield)

F - Montrezl Harrell
F - Stephan Van Tresse
G - Russ Smith
G - Chris Jones

G - Wayne Blackshear

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Russ Smith (17.0 PPG) Montrezl Harrell (14.0 PPG)

Rebounding: Montrezl Harrell (9.8) Chane Behanan (5.5 RPG)

Assists: Russ Smith (3.8 APG) Chris Jones (3.6 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
Rebounds Per Game: 41.2
Assist Per Game: 14.8
Field Goal Percentage: .473
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .333

North Carolina at a glance
Last starting line-up
(against Richmond)

F - Jame Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Joel James
G - Marcus Paige

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (20.0 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (17.0 PPG)

Rebounding: Brice Johnson (7.8 RPG) James Michael McAdoo (7.5 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.0 APG) J.P. Tokoto (3.5 APG)

Team Statistics
oints Per Game: 77.0
Rebounds Per Game: 40.0
Assist Per Game: 16.0
Field Goal Percentage: .480
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .372


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