North Carolina (7-1) vs. Texas (5-3)
Austin, Tex. – Erwin Center
Saturday, 5:15 p.m. EST
ESPN (Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas)
“Any time as a coach that you can compete against one of the best programs in the country, if not the best… I mean, I grew up watching Dean Smith and those teams… I've always thought of Carolina, and Kentucky fans will disagree, I thought of Carolina as the program. Obviously Coach Williams has done a phenomenal job since he's been there.” – Texas head coach Shaka Smart
“Those are the type of games as a player you get really fired up for, and as a coach it’s a great chance to see, as a team, if we can take that big step. It’s certainly not going to be easy, but I think for our guys they’re excited to come out and play and see what we can do.” – Smart
Season to Date: Texas enters Saturday’s matchup with a 5-3 record. Shaka Smart opened his tenure in Austin with a loss to Washington, 77-71, in Shanghai on Nov. 13. After a win in their home opener over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Longhorns dropped two of three in the Battle 4 Atlantis – losses to No. 25 Texas A&M and Michigan – before reeling off three straight in the month of December over the likes of UT Arlington, Samford and UTSA.
Ridley Stuffs Stat Sheets: Senior center Cameron Ridley, who Roy Williams recruited out of high school, has done a little bit of everything for the Longhorns this year. The 6-foot-10, 290-pound big man leads the team in rebounds (9.5) and blocks (2.9) per game and is second in scoring (12.4) despite averaging 24.4 minutes. Even more impressive is how efficient Ridley has been this season; he ranks third in the NCAA in field goal percentage, shooting 72.4 percent from the floor. All four of those aforementioned statistical categories have seen significant jumps since last season. He will provide UNC its toughest test in the post to date.
Offensive Outburst: The Longhorns recovered from a 59-point outing in a win against Samford to unload 116 points on UT-San Antonio Tuesday night. It was the 12th-best offensive performance in Texas history. Ridley led the offensive onslaught with 19 points, while freshman guard Tevin Mack poured in an additional 17 points on 7-11 shooting. The Longhorns shot 64.7 percent from the floor, including 50 percent from long range (15-of-30). Texas had shot 33.7 percent from 3-point territory over its first seven games.
Working Up to Speed: Shaka Smart is in the process of transitioning the Longhorns into his style of play, although the former VCU head coach has been open about the significant adjustment period. Smart has slowly worked in his fullcourt pressure defense to push tempo, but has said he doesn’t intend to press for the entire length of a game quite yet. Texas ranks 263rd in adjusted tempo (68.6) and 198th in adjusted time of possession (17.3), according to kenpom.com, rankings far below Smart’s typical production at VCU.
Stats Breakdown: Texas has made its mark on the defensive end of the court during the first month of the season. The Longhorns rank 27th nationally in field goal percentage defense (37.3) and 43rd in 3-point field goal percentage defense, thanks in part to top-60 rankings in blocks and turnover margin. Offensively, Texas is shooting 44.6 percent from the floor (147th) and 36.5 percent from long range (97th).
Deep Roster: Smart walked into a solid situation at Texas with a quality roster at his disposal. The Longhorns’ five-man senior class has started 282 games, and four of those seniors are currently starting alongside junior point guard Isaiah Taylor. Three freshmen, led by Mack, have played in all eight games, while two Longhorns have played in at least five games.
Success vs. Top-5: Texas is 6-4 at home against AP Top-5 teams since the start of the 2002-03 season.
Last Meeting: The Longhorns defeated the Tar Heels, 86-83, at the Smith Center on Dec. 18, 2013. UNC rallied from a 13-point deficit to tie the game at 72-72 with 4:06 to play. Demarcus Holland’s putback with 4.1 seconds remaining finalized the scoring due to Marcus Paige’s last-second 3-point attempt missing its mark. Paige led UNC with 23 points.
Series History: Texas leads the all-time series, 6-3. The Longhorns are 2-0 at home and have won six of the last seven meetings.
01 Isaiah Taylor (6-3, 185, Jr.) – 13.3 ppg, 4.8 apg
55 Cameron Ridley (6-10, 290, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg
03 Javan Felix (5-11, 205, Sr.) - 8.9 ppg, 2.1 apg
21 Connor Lammert (6-10, 235, Sr.) - 5.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg
02 Demarcus Holland (6-3, 190, Sr.) - 5.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg
00 Tevin Mack (6-6, 210, Fr.) - 6.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg
12 Kerwin Roach, Jr. (6-4, 170, Fr.) - 6.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg
10 Eric Davis, Jr. (6-2, 185, Fr.) - 9.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg