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UNC vs. Chattanooga Preview

No. 6 North Carolina returns to Chapel Hill for its home opener against a dangerous Chattanooga team on Sunday. Tip-off at the Dean E. Smith Center is set for 4 p.m.

North Carolina (1-0) vs. Chattanooga (1-0)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Sunday, 4 p.m.
ESPN2 (Roy Philpott, Jason Capel)


"Those guys played the right way. We were going to be able to get down the lane against Tennessee's pressure. Our guys made the right plays and played the right way.” UTC head coach Matt McCall on his team’s play following Friday’s 82-69 upset of Tennessee

"We've been here before. Basketball is a game of runs and we have great leaders on this team that stepped up and answered when we had.” – UTC senior Justin Tuoyo on facing adversity at Tennessee

“We’ve never backed away from a challenge yet.” – UTC senior Tre’ McLean on playing at the Smith Center


Jackson Breaks Out Early: The Tar Heels opened their season on Friday night with a 95-75 win over Tulane in New Orleans. Junior wing Justin Jackson was the highlight performer for UNC, scoring a career-high 27 points in 29 minutes of game time. Jackson went 9-12 from the floor, which included a 4-of-5 effort from behind the 3-point line (he shot 29 percent from 3 in 2015-16). Over the summer, Jackson prioritized his shot to become a more consistent threat from deep, and if Friday’s game is any indication, he made significant strides.

Chattanooga Spotlight: The Mocs arrive in Chapel Hill with a veteran squad boasting five senior starters, including their top three scorers from last season’s 29-6 (15-3 SoCon) team that lost to Indiana in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. Starting forward Chuck Ester is sidelined indefinitely with a knee injury, although 34-year old coach Matt McCall gets senior forward Casey Jones back, who missed the last three months of the 2015-16 season with an ankle injury. Jones was the preseason SoCon Player of the Year last year, and wing Tre’ McLean takes that honor this season. The Mocs are the favorites to win the Southern Conference, and started the season on a high note with a 82-69 win over Tennessee on Friday.

Seniors Tuoyo and McLean Look to Impress: Forward Justin Tuoyo and McLean were the stars of the Mocs’ victory over the Volunteers. The 6-foot-10 Tuoyo, who was the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year last season, dominated in the paint, leading all scorers with 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass. McLean also notched a double-double, scoring 21 points and adding 10 rebounds. Tuoyo and McLean will both look to get around 30 minutes a game this season, up from last year, and their stat sheets should benefit.

Matchup to Watch: Despite the Mocs’ triumph in Knoxville, McCall’s team got into severe foul trouble. Chattanooga committed 26 personal fouls, giving up a total of 40 free throws to the Vols. Most of those fouls came in the frontcourt, either against big men in the paint or Tennessee’s guards driving down the lane. For UNC to replicate the Vols’ success in creating foul trouble and getting to the free throw line, its guards will have to be aggressive to the rim while consistently feeding forwards Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks in the post. Without Ester in the lineup, Jones has moved down to the four, so UNC’s bigs will once again possess a size advantage down low. Tuoyo will pose a challenge in the middle for all comers, given that the 6-foot-10 forward is a superb shot blocker.

Last Meeting: UNC defeated Chattanooga, 68-38, in Charlotte on Dec. 5, 1997.

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Mocs, 4-0.

Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 23.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 9.0 ppg, 15.0 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 27.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 2.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg

Projected UTC Starters:
1 Greg Pryor (6-2, 192, Sr.) – 14.0 ppg, 4.0 apg
5 Justin Tuoyo (6-10, 235, Sr.) - 22.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg
23 Tre’ McLean (6-5, 105, Sr.) - 21.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg
24 Casey Jones (6-5, 205, Sr.) – 7.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg
4 J. Burroughs-Cook (6-2, 188, Sr.) – 11.0 ppg, 1.0 spg

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