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January 19, 2014

UNC-UVA Preview

Basketball Preview

UNC is moving in the right direction after getting their first win of the ACC season against Boston College Saturday afternoon. They have a quick turnaround and will get introduced to the Big Monday festivities on ESPN tomorrow night against the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville.

The Tar Heels put together a full game of basketball for the first time in what feels like decades. In reality, they only endure a three-game losing streak but it was the kind of losing streak that had fans wondering if they could turn it around.

The game Saturday proved that they still have plenty of talent and most of their woes are a matter of focus and not ability.

Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into the fifth conference game of the year for UNC.

Switching It Up

Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald started in the backcourt for the first time this year against Boston College and Jackson Simmons replaced Joel James in the frontcourt starting rotation. The switch resulted in UNC scoring more points than they've grown accustomed to and Roy Williams may have found something to build upon going forward.

The Tar Heels still didn't shoot particularly well from deep (just 33 percent from beyond the arc), especially when compared to Boston College's 47 percent 3-point percentage. However, the more traditional line-up that featured one primary ball handler, a scoring guard and bigs with more well-defined roles, allowed for a more cohesive unit that flowed naturally on the court.

J.P. Tokoto had a smoothness to his game that has only been seen in spurts and his aggressiveness going towards the basket allowed him to score four points from the charity stripe. His shot selection has improved and he's beginning to take on more and more responsibility for this team.

The one drawback is Paige's comfort level moving back and forth between being a two-guard and a point guard. He spoke about that notion after the game.

"I did get a little passive in the second half," Paige said. "I tend to do that when I'm playing point guard and I haven't had a lot of chances to be the primary point guard the entire time this year. But other guys were making shots so I didn't have any problem with it."

Last season proved that Paige can play the point and it would give Nate Britt a chance to develop at a slower pace instead of making UNC have back-to-back seasons of throwing freshmen into the ACC fire as a starting point guard.

Brice Johnson

Brice Johnson has yet to score double-digits in any game that UNC has played in the ACC thus far. A lot of that has to do with his inability to get on the court because he isn't doing the things defensively that he needs to do however, his scoring ability can make a big difference for a team void of offensive talents.

When Johnson is on there isn't a player on the team that oozes more confidence and charisma than he does. But when he's off he disappears.

His turnaround hook shots and active hands on offensive rebounds make him a nightmare for opposing teams when they have to scout him. But he's got to keep himself ready to go mentally in order to make a difference.

He got a chance to start earlier in the year but his best role is that of a gunner coming off the bench.

That allows Williams to put him in situations where he's not relied upon on the defensive end and he can focus on filling up the scoreboard when UNC needs that offensive boost.


If anything was learned from UNC's football season it was that if a team focuses on the task at hand and doesn't get drawn into the distractions of a long losing streak or preseason expectations, they can pull themselves out of bad spot and turn things around.

The Heels went from 1-5 to winning a bowl game. The basketball team, this year, has already gone from losing games against Belmont and UAB to knocking off the defending champs and defeating Michigan State when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

After the Boston College game, Tokoto explained to reporters that the coaches have emphasized to the players focusing on the things they can control and letting go of everything beyond that.

"This week in practice it was just guard your man, worry about what you can contribute," said Tokoto.

"We put it in the game and it worked."

This week's game means chasing Joe Harris off screens, keeping Akil Mitchell off the glass and speeding up the Cavaliers so they don't get stuck in a half court battle the way they did against Syracuse.

(13-5, 4-1)
North Carolina
(11-6, 1-3)

Game Day
Monday, January 20, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Venue: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593)

Radio: Tar Heel Sports Network & SiriusXM (Sirius 85/XM 85)
Series: UNC leads 128-50
Last Meeting: UNC won 93-81 on February 16, 2013 in Chapel Hill.

Virginia at a glance
Location: Charlottesville, Va.
Nickname: Cavaliers, Wahoos, 'Hoos
Colors: Orange & Blue
Conference: ACC
Arena: John Paul Jones Arena (14,593)
2012-2013 Record: 23-12 (11-7)
Last Game: Virginina beat Florida State, 78-66, on Saturday in Charlottesville.
More on the Cavaliers:
Schedule | Stats | Roster
Official Site | Rivals Site

Last starting line-up
(against Florida State)

F - Akil Mitchell
F - Mike Tobey
G - Malcolm Brogdon
G - London Perrantes

G - Joe Harris

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Joe Harris (11.3 PPG) Malcolm Brogdon (10.8 PPG)

Rebounding: Akil Mitchell (6.4) Malcolm Brogdon (5.2 RPG)

Assists: London Perrantes (3.4 APG) Joe Harris (1.9 APG)

Team Statistics
Points Per Game:
Rebounds Per Game: 37.2
Assist Per Game: 12.6
Field Goal Percentage: .442
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .355

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

F - Jame Michael McAdoo
F - J.P. Tokoto
F - Jackson Simmons
G - Marcus Paige

G - Nate Britt

Statistical Leaders
Scoring: Marcus Paige (17.2 PPG) James Michael McAdoo (14.6 PPG)

Rebounding: James Michael McAdoo (6.6 RPG) Brice Johnson (6.5 RPG)

Assists: Marcus Paige (4.2 APG) J.P. Tokoto (2.8 APG)

Team Statistics
oints Per Game: 76.0
Rebounds Per Game: 40.9
Assist Per Game: 15.5
Field Goal Percentage: .456
3-pt Field Goal Percentage: .307

Game Notes: UVA | UNC

If they can get past Virginia then the next three games after that include Clemson at home, who hasn't beaten the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill in forever, followed by games against Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Maryland, all teams in the middle or the bottom of the ACC standings.

If they can keep the momentum rolling against Virginia and come out with a tough road win, they'll be in a good position to have a decent conference record during the first week of February.


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