December 29, 2014

North Carolina didn't show even a hint of a letdown following a high-profile victory and a six-day break, and now it has an opportunity to take a season-high win streak into ACC play.

The 19th-ranked Tar Heels appear to have a good chance to secure a fourth straight win Tuesday night when they face a struggling William & Mary.

North Carolina never trailed after scoring the first seven points against visiting UAB on Saturday in an 89-58 rout. Marcus Paige's 16 points led a season-high six players in double figures.

Paige made 6 of 13 shots after missing 15 of 20 in his prior two games. Freshman swingman Justin Jackson had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting after averaging 7.0 points and shooting 34.1 percent in his first five contests this month.

"I think that was really good for (Jackson), but it was also good for our team," coach Roy Williams said. "We need somebody to step up and I've said all year I really think he is going to be a good shooter, and I think those were big for his confidence today."

The Tar Heels (9-3), who also posted an 82-74 win over then-No. 12 Ohio State on Dec. 20, now look for a strong performance ahead of Saturday's conference opener at Clemson.

"(Preparing for the ACC) is a momentum thing for us. It's a learning experience," said forward Brice Johnson, who has averaged 14.2 points on 64.7 percent shooting his last five games. "The ACC is a whole different ball game. We just have to go ahead and finish out the preseason and be ready for the next challenge."

North Carolina will have to get past a team that's dropped three of four since a five-game win streak. William & Mary (6-4) has been idle since a 69-62 defeat at Old Dominion on Dec. 22.

While they've struggled lately, the Tribe do have one of the nation's leading scorers in senior guard Marcus Thornton (19.3 ppg). He's averaged 23.2 points on 56.9 percent shooting in his last five games and had 22 on 8-of-15 shooting in last week's defeat.

Thornton was held to a season-low 10 points and 3-of-11 shooting in his team's only other matchup with a ranked squad this season, a 68-45 loss at then-No. 7 Florida on Nov. 14. The Gators are currently out of the rankings, and William & Mary hasn't beaten a Top 25 team since a 78-75 win over No. 2 North Carolina on Dec. 7, 1977.

The Tribe have lost 35 in a row to ranked opponents and seven straight to the Tar Heels. As an unranked team, North Carolina won 85-60 in the most recent meeting Dec. 21, 2010, in Chapel Hill, and is 11-0 at home in the series.

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