November 20, 2015

Top-ranked North Carolina has imposed its will in the paint on its first three opponents, physically dominating each behind a potent interior duo.

The Tar Heels will look to stay perfect as they hit the road for the first time Saturday against Northern Iowa in the schools' first meeting.

North Carolina has outscored its opponents 261-190 while shooting 50.8 percent. Six-foot-10 forwards Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each had 16 points in Wednesday's 78-58 win against Wofford, with Johnson grabbing 14 rebounds.

The Tar Heels outrebounded the Terriers 42-25 and claimed a 50-18 advantage in points in the paint, running their season edge to 132-50 after blowing out Fairfield and Temple.

Meeks is averaging 16.3 points while Johnson is at 16.0.

"We have two of the best big men in the nation, so we wanted to get the ball down to them, and that's what we did in the first half," said Joel Berry II, who also scored 16 as he continues to fill in for injured starting point guard Marcus Paige. "We were able to get the ball inside and that's what we wanted to do."

UNC's excellent play on the interior has been particularly crucial with Paige sidelined. Paige won't play in Cedar Falls, an hour away from where he grew up in Marion, because a broken hand is expected to sideline him for at least three more games.

Elsewhere in the Carolina backcourt, Justin Jackson is off to another slow start, going 0 for 9 from 3-point range. He shot 44.7 percent from deep over his final 12 games last season after hitting 4 of 24 through his first 11 as a freshman.

"Basketball is a long season. It goes up and down," coach Roy Williams said. "He didn't start out very warm, hot, whatever you want to call it, to start the season last year. He's played well in practice, and he's shot it well in practice. It's going to go in the basket for him. Again, that's not a big concern of mine."

The Panthers opened with an 84-78 loss to Colorado State before bouncing back in a 70-60 victory against Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday, shooting 52.3 percent. They were much improved defensively, holding the Lumberjacks to a 35.5 field-goal percentage after conceding a 48.4 mark against the Rams.

Four players scored 14 or more, led by Paul Jesperson and Matt Bohannon, who each had 15. Bohannon was Paige's high school teammate.

UNI will be looking to limit its turnovers after committing 17 against Stephen F. Austin. The Panthers averaged 10.4 last season to rank 16th nationally.

They're hosting the nation's top team for the first time and are 11-6 at home against ranked squads, winning eight of the last 10. Northern Iowa won its last meeting with a No. 1 team, knocking off Kansas 69-67 in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina has a quick turnaround as it heads to the CBE Classic in Kansas City for two games in two days starting Monday.

You May Like