December 15, 2014

Wes Miller is used to sharing courtside seats with Roy Williams, and a decade ago they did so with similar interests.

Tuesday night's meeting at UNC Greensboro will be the second time they've been separated by a scorer's table.

Williams and No. 24 North Carolina will visit Miller's Spartans 10 seasons removed from the duo's shared national title with the Tar Heels - Williams then in his second season as coach and Miller as a seldom-used sophomore guard.

North Carolina (6-3) is seeking a smooth effort in between Saturday's 84-70 loss at Kentucky and this coming Saturday's clash with No. 12 Ohio State in Chicago.

Offensively, the Tar Heels posted some relatively strong numbers against the Wildcats, shooting 45.0 percent to become the first team to do better than 38.5 percent against the nation's top team.

Brice Johnson scored a team-high 15 on 7-of-12 shooting and is averaging 17.0 on 59.3 percent.

They still felt out of sorts offensively, though it didn't much matter with Kentucky scoring 49 first-half points to build a 15-point lead.

The 56.3 percent the Wildcats shot far surpassed the 38.6-percent mark UCLA managed against North Carolina on Nov. 27, which was its opponents' previous season high. North Carolina still felt like it was able to at times execute its defense against elite competition.

"When we did what we talked about in pregame - taking care of the ball, executing, running out on defense - we got exactly what we wanted," top scorer Marcus Paige told the team's official website. "Defensively, when we were locked in and not making silly mistakes, they didn't score. That's one thing we should take from this, is that when we do what coach is talking about, it works."

It figures to work far more often against the Spartans (4-6), who have won three straight by a combined seven points against lagging competition - Presbyterian, Greensboro College and East Tennessee State.

Miller, in his fourth season at UNC Greensboro, brought the Spartans to Chapel Hill on Dec. 7, 2013, for an 81-50 North Carolina win that served as the first meeting in the programs' histories. Johnson scored a game-high 14 points off the bench.

In Saturday's 80-79 win at East Tennessee State to open Southern Conference play, the Spartans reached the 80-point plateau for a second straight game after failing to get there in their first eight. The three-game winning streak has seen their turnover average dip to 10.0 after giving the ball away 14.6 times through their 1-6 start.

"We had a great start and were tough enough to weather their runs late in the game," Miller told the school's official website. "We did a great job of playing the next possession and not allowing what just happened to affect the next play. ETSU is one of the top offensive teams we will play this year so to come in here and get a victory is very rewarding to our guys."

Tevon Saddler scored 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He also had 24 points against Greensboro to post a season high in consecutive games. Saddler was 2 for 9 as a freshman against the Tar Heels.

UNC Greensboro was 1-3 against ACC teams a season ago with a win at Virginia Tech. It's 2-51 in program history.

It's been 14 games since the Spartans have had a single-digits defeat against a Top 25 team. The 13 losses since have come by an average of 30.7 points.

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