December 15, 2015

Just as it was getting accustomed to a healthy lineup, North Carolina will once again have to play without one of its starters.

Kennedy Meeks is expected to miss at least three games and likely more for the 11th-ranked Tar Heels, beginning with Wednesday night's visit from Tulane.

North Carolina (7-2) was forced to play without its top scorer from each of the last two seasons, Marcus Paige, until this month because of his fractured right hand.

The Tar Heels beat then-No. 2 Maryland in his return Dec. 1 and extended their win streak to four on Dec. 6 with a 98-65 rout of Davidson. That run ended when Texas' Javan Felix hit a buzzer beater Saturday to send them to an 84-82 road defeat.

The school took another loss Monday when it announced Meeks had a bone bruise in his left knee and would miss at least two weeks, possibly "several weeks." The junior forward was averaging 12.3 points on 59.5 percent shooting and was the team's second-leading rebounder at 7.4 per game.

Coach Roy Williams indicated he might "shift Justin Jackson down and play him at the four and go (with a smaller lineup)," the school's official website reported. Isaiah Hicks, who scored a season-high 14 points Saturday, might get his first starts of this campaign.

The Tar Heels, one of the nation's top shooting teams at 49.5 percent, will likely get by without Meeks in most of their remaining four nonconference games with their only high-profile matchup Saturday against No. 22 UCLA in Brooklyn.

Tulane (6-4) has faced one major conference opponent this season, losing 76-68 to Georgia Tech on Dec. 5, and has dropped 30 consecutive games against ranked teams. The Green Wave have also lost 17 straight road contests versus Top 25 opponents.

They've lost 13 of 14 all-time matchups with North Carolina and are playing their first since an 89-71 loss in Charlotte on Dec. 1, 1995.

Tulane's leading scorer, senior guard Louis Dabney (14.1 points per game), had a season-high 24 in a 63-49 win over Prairie View A&M on Monday.

Junior guard Malik Morgan, a transfer from LSU, is the team's only other player averaging in double figures (10.7). Dylan Osetkowski is one of the American Athletic Conference's leading rebounders with 9.6 per game, including 11 in each of the last three games.

"(Facing North Carolina) is a good opportunity for our program and these guys," coach Ed Conroy said. "In my mind, they may be the best team in the country when it's all said and done. We get a chance to go on their floor and gauge where we're at before heading into conference play."

Tulane lost 90-82 to Southern on Nov. 19 in its only other road game this season. The Green Wave are facing a Top 25 team for the first time since an 82-57 loss to No. 17 St. John's on Dec. 28 in Brooklyn.

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