Previewing Long Island

No. 2-seed North Carolina embarks on its 2011 NCAA Tournament on Friday with an opening matchup against No. 15 seed Long Island. Tip-off in Charlotte is set for 7:15 p.m. on CBS.

North Carolina (26-7) vs. Long Island (27-5)
Charlotte, N.C. -- Time Warner Cable Arena
7:15pm -- CBS (Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg)


"They better be ready." – Long Island sophomore forward Jamal Olasewere on the news that his team would be playing North Carolina

"I think we should have gotten a little more respect than that. All the formulas we've been told and all the formulas I've looked through, I thought we'd be a lock at 14. Actually, I thought we'd be a lock as probably the top-seeded 14 to be quite honest." – LIU head coach Jim Ferry

"If you split us up, we all could be the leading player on any other team. But everybody knew it would be a huge sacrifice. We knew nobody was going to play 30 minutes a game. We knew nobody was going to be the main scorer. It's somebody different every night. We had to commit ourselves to a team like that. Sacrifices had to be made. But we made them." – Olasewere


Season to Date: Long Island enters Friday's NCAA second round contest with a 27-5 (16-2 Northeast) record. The Blackbirds have won 13 straight and 21 of their last 22 games, including an 85-82 overtime victory over Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference Tournament championship game. Head coach Jim Ferry has guided the Blackbirds to just their second winning season during his nine-year tenure at LIU. The lone power conference team Long Island played this season was Northwestern, losing 81-65 back on Dec. 13.

NEC Tournament Standout: Sometimes it takes pressure situations for certain players to elevate their game. With Long Island needing to win the NEC Tournament to earn a NCAA Tournament bid, Jamal Olasewere stepped into the role of clutch performer. The sophomore forward averaged 21.7 points on 52.2 percent shooting and 11.7 rebounds per game during the Blackbirds' three tournament wins that clinched the conference title and a NCAA Tournament invitation. For the season, the 6-foot-7, 215-pounder is averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds and also leads the team in steals (43).

Balanced Scoring: Complimenting Olasewere are six other Blackbirds that are averaging 8.0 points or more on the season, including three scoring in double figures. Senior guards David Hicks (11.0 ppg) and Kyle Johnson (10.8 ppg) provide valuable experience in the backcourt, while sophomore forward Julian Boyd (16.0 ppg, 10.2 rpg during win streak) meshes well with Olasewere to form a young but talented frontcourt. Starting guard C.J. Garner (9.3 ppg) joins guard Michael Culpo (8.0 ppg) and forward Kenny Onyechi (7.4 ppg) as other scoring options to watch.

Run and Gun: Tar Heel fans that have grown accustomed to Roy Williams pushing the tempo will find a similar approach instilled by the Blackbirds. Long Island ranks fourth nationally in scoring offense 82.6 ppg), fourth in effective points (82.0 ppg) and fifth in possessions per 40 minutes (76.3). Add all of that up and you arrive at an average of 1.07 points per possession. The Blackbirds have scored at least 80 points in 24 games, topping the 90-point barrier eight times.

Living at the Line – Literally: Long Island leads the NCAA in total free throw attempts (974) and averages 30.4 foul shots per game. The Blackbirds have shot 64.5 percent (628-of-974) from the foul line, compared to 65.3 percent (343-of-525) for their opponents.

Telling Stat, Take I: LIU went 0-1 against the 2011 NCAA Tournament field, dropping a 65-62 decision at Southwest region No. 14 seed Saint Peter's, the No. 14 seed in the Southwest Region.

Telling Stat, Take II: LIU is a member of the Northeast Conference. The Tar Heels beat Saint Francis (Pa.), another Northeast Conference team, 103-54 on Jan. 2, 2011. LIU split its regular season series with Saint Francis this season.

Series History: Friday night's game will be the first meeting on the hardwood between North Carolina and Long Island.

Projected Starters:
12 C.J. Garner (5-10, 160, So.) - 9.3 ppg, 3.4 apg
24 David Hicks (6-1, 195, Sr.) - 11.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
00 Kyle Johnson (6-4, 200, Sr.) - 10.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg
1 Jamal Olasewere (6-7, 215, So.) - 12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg
42 Julian Boyd (6-7, 240, So.) - 12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg

Top Reserves:
23 Michael Culpo (6-1, 180, Jr.) - 7.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg
32 Kenny Onyechi (6-7, 230, So.) - 7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg
11 Jason Brickman (5-10, 165, So.) - 4.6 ppg, 5.4 apg
20 Brooker Hucks (6-5, 200, So.) - 2.2 ppg, 1.5 rpg

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