November 28, 2014

North Carolina hasn't played Florida since the 2000 NCAA tournament, when the Gators beat the Tar Heels for a chance to play in the championship game.

Friday night's showdown in the Bahamas doesn't have nearly as much at stake.

Looking to knock off its second consecutive ranked opponent, No. 5 North Carolina takes on No. 18 Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis' fifth-place game.

The Tar Heels (4-1) suffered a surprising 74-66 loss to Butler on Wednesday before bouncing back to beat No. 22 UCLA 78-56 in the consolation round the following day. North Carolina limited the Bruins to 38.6 percent shooting, including 1 of 14 from 3-point range.

The Tar Heels committed just 11 turnovers and forced UCLA into 23. They also held a 13-9 edge on the offensive glass after getting outrebounded 57-40 by the Bulldogs. Marcus Paige had 21 points to lead all scorers while Justin Jackson added 12.

"It's easy now for us to see the difference in how we played tonight versus how we played (Wednesday)," Paige said. "The way everyone was into it, playing unselfish, flying around on defense, being active, that's a more fun way to play.

"And when you see the results as drastically different as they were, why wouldn't you want to play that way? That has to be our mindset. Every single night you have to come out ready like we did tonight."

North Carolina has gone 6-3 against Top 25 opponents since the start of last season thanks in large part to Paige. The star guard has averaged 20.0 points on 49.6 percent shooting in those games compared to 16.4 and 41.2 against unranked foes.

"Early in the year, you don't know how your team is going to respond," he said. "That was the first real face of adversity we had all year. I liked the way responded, and hopefully we won't have to have a lot of those teaching points moving forward."

Florida (3-2) has alternated wins and losses through its first five games after getting by UAB 56-47 on Thursday. Michael Frazier II scored 14 points and Chris Chiozza added 13 off the bench as the Gators overcame another ugly offensive display.

Florida shot 34.0 percent against the Blazers, its third straight game under 36.0 percent. The Gators also went just 13 of 23 from the foul line for their worst effort this season.

Florida, which entered the game tied for 229th in the country with 65.3 points per game, had its average dip to 63.4. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, are averaging 82.6 points.

This marks the Gators' first meeting against a Top 25 opponent.

"As much as we're 3-2 right now, we could have won every single game and we could have lost every single game," coach Billy Donovan said. "That's the reality. When you play against high-level competition, that's what ends up happening. We could have easily lost today."

Gators guard Eli Carter averaged 11.7 points over the first three games before sitting out Thursday with a sore foot, leaving his status for this game unclear.

Florida beat North Carolina 71-59 in the 2000 national semifinals but lost the title game 89-76 to Michigan State. The Tar Heels hold a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.

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