Previewing McNeese State

The Tar Heels return home for a much-needed pre-holiday tuneup on Saturday against McNeese State. Tip-off at the Smith Center is scheduled for noon and will be televised by ESPNU.

North Carolina (8-3) vs. McNeese State (6-3)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
Saturday, 12 p.m.
ESPNU (Tom Hart, Jay Williams)


"I've got to do a heck of a lot better job and they've got to buy in. We're just doing some of the silliest things out there that I've ever seen." -- UNC head coach Roy Williams following his team's loss at Texas on Wednesday

"This is a great win for our team, our school and for the Southland Conference." -- McNeese State head coach Dave Simmons after winning at Texas Tech on Sunday, the school's first-ever defeat of a Big 12 team


Season to Date: McNeese State enters Saturday's contest with a 6-3 record. The Cowboys followed their season-opening win over Louisiana College (72-54) with losses to LSU (73-48), Southeast Missouri State (64-53) and Ole Miss (76-50). Head coach Dave Simmons's squad has since won five straight, including an 80-75 victory at Texas Tech, which marks the program's first-ever win against a Big 12 opponent.

Solid Addition: Sophomore Craig McFerrin has been sidelined for most of the 2012 calendar year. The 6-foot-7 230-pound sophomore suffered a season-ending shoulder injury on Jan. 29 and then missed the first seven games this season due to academics. He's been strong, however, since returning to the court last week. McFerrin earned Southland Conference Basketball Player of the Week honors with back-to-back career highs with 14 and 18 points off the bench. He shot 68.2 percent (15-of-22) from the floor and averaged 6.5 rebounds per game.

Offense Warming Up: During its current five-game winning streak, McNeese is shooting 50.8 percent from the floor (159-of-313). The Cowboys had connected on just 38.1 percent of their field goal attempts through the first four games of the season. Sophomore forward Desharik Guidry is averaging 16.2 points and 11 rebounds over that span, while senior guard Dontae Cannon is averaging 13.8 points and 5.4 assists.

Struggles on the Board: McNeese State owns a minus-3.9 rebounding margin, good for 287th nationally. Opponents are pulling down 13.9 offensive rebounds per game, although McFerrin's return has allowed the Cowboys to be more competitive on the glass in the their last two contests. SEC foes LSU and Ole Miss combined for 97 total rebounds and 41 offensive boards in victories over McNeese.

Stopping Transition: The Cowboys have been effective in limiting their opponents to score on the break. Teams all averaging four points per game in transition. Texas Tech's 12 fast break points on Dec. 16 is a season-high against Simmons's squad.

Lack of a Perimeter Threat: Senior guard Jeremie Mitchell accounts for 15 of McNeese's 37 3-pointers on the season, highlighting the team's difficulty in scoring from long range. The Cowboys' 4.1 made 3-pointers per game ranks 313th nationally. McNeese is shooting 29.8 percent (37-of-124) from beyond the arc.

ACC History: McNeese is 0-3 all-time against the ACC with losses to Boston College, Miami and Florida State.

Series History: Saturday's matchup will be the first-ever game between these two programs.

Projected Starters:
5 Dontae Cannon (6-1, 168, Sr.) - 12.6 ppg, 4.3 apg
2 Jeremie Mitchell (6-3, 180, Sr.) - 10.6 ppg, 1.7 apg
11 Kevin Hardy (6-2, 180, So.) - 10.8 ppg, 4.0 apg
32 Desharick Guidry (6-5, 200, So.) - 13.2 ppg, 9.3 rpg
44 Austin Lewis (6-8, 215, Fr.) - 4.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg

Top Reserves:
10 Craig McFerrin (6-7, 230, So.) - 16.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg
20 Adrian Fields (6-5, 197, Jr.) - 6.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg
22 Ledrick Eackles (6-3, 200, Jr.) - 8.0 ppg, 1.0 apg

Location: Lake Charles, La.
Enrollment: 8,900
Conference: Southland
Nickname: Cowboys
Colors: Blue & Gold
Head Coach: Dave Simmons (7th season)

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(Photos by USA Today Sports)

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