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UNC vs. Radford Preview

No. 3 North Carolina returns home after a five-game road trip - and its first loss of the season - to host Radford on Sunday. The game tips at 2:00 p.m. at the Smith Center (RSN).

North Carolina (7-1) vs. Radford (3-4)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Sunday, 2 p.m.
RSN (Tom Werme, Mike Gminski)


“Our objective is to go in there and win. We’re not going in there to collect a [$95,000] check. We’re not going in there to get a moral victory. We’re going in there to win a game against a very tough team. We’ve got players who aren’t going to be afraid of that situation and if we play with poise and do what we do, hopefully we’ll give ourselves a chance.” - Radford head coach Mike Jones on playing UNC

“We’ve been struggling, we’ve been up and down a little bit here at the beginning of the season and we definitely needed a win,” said the 6-foot-1 guard. “The guys found me when I was open and I was able to knock down some shots.” - Radford's Caleb Tanner after scoring a career-high 17 points in Wednesday's win over VMI


UNC’s First Stumble: The Tar Heels lost their first game of the season on Wednesday, falling 76-67 to Indiana at Assembly Hall. This game was the first true road test UNC has played this season, according to Roy Williams, and his team faltered. They could not match the Hoosiers’ intensity early and found themselves down 17 points early. The only Tar Heel who left the game with a stuffed stat sheet was forward Justin Jackson, who scored 21 points on 4-7 shooting from 3-point range while also collecting eight rebounds. Joel Berry, who was coming off his Maui Invitational MVP performance, struggled with his shot. The junior guard was 3-13 from the floor (1-6 3PT), only scoring eight points in 31 minutes.

Radford Spotlight: The Highlanders (3-4) have had a back-and-forth start to their season. This is following a season of the exact same nature in 2015 – Radford finished 16-15 (9-9 Big South) in a season where every win seemed like it was followed by a loss and vice-versa. So far this season, there’s been little consistency to Radford’s play. Head coach Mike Jones’ squad has been the giver and recipient of a couple of blowouts already. The Highlanders have yet to record consecutive wins, a streak that will be hard to start when they enter the Dean E. Smith Center on Sunday. So far this season, Radford is posting a -5.3 scoring margin and -3.1 turnover margin, two indicators of their back-and-forth start to the season.

Youth Revolution: The Highlanders are without their two leading scorers from last year, guards Rashun Davis and Cameron Jones. Now leading the charge are sophomore forward Ed Polite Jr. and freshman guard Donald Hicks. Polite Jr. is the leading returning scorer for the Highlanders (8.7 ppg in ‘15-16) and is averaging 9.5 points per game this season. Jones relies on Polite Jr. most of the game, as he is the only Radford player to average over 30 minutes a game. Hicks is an average scorer (7.9 ppg this season), but is an effective guard on the boards – the 6-foot-3 freshman is averaging over three rebounds a game. The biggest surprise for Radford’s offense this season is from sophomore guard Caleb Tanner. Tanner is leading his team in scoring (10.6 ppg) while only averaging 20 minutes per game. He’s been extremely effective in his limited minutes, shooting 47-percent from the field and 46-percent from the three-point line.

Matchup to Watch: UNC freshman forward Tony Bradley was silenced for the first time in his short career against Indiana. The star freshman only recorded four points and two rebounds in the Tar Heels’ loss, producing his worst performance in a UNC jersey. Not only was Bradley outplayed, he just didn’t look physically ready to face a strong rebounding team that would pressure him and make every shot and rebound a challenge. Flash forward to Sunday’s game, and Bradley will look to get his swagger back. At 6-foot-10, Bradley is two inches taller than any player on Radford’s roster. Look for the freshman to dominate the boards off the bench and get back to his double-digit scoring habits from earlier in the season.

Last Meeting: The top-seeded Tar Heels defeated No. 16 seed Radford, 101-58, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 19, 2009. Wayne Ellington (25) and Tyler Hansbrough (22) led UNC in scoring, while Danny Green added a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Series History: UNC leads the all-time series, 1-0.

Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 16.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 13.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 13.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 16.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg

Projected Radford Starters:
3 Christian Bradford (6-1, 165, Jr.) – 7.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg
14 Justin Cousin (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 6.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg
5 Donald Hicks (6-3, 170, Fr.) - 7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg
24 Ed Polite (6-5, 200, So.) – 9.5 ppg, 9.7 rpg
32 Randy Phillips (6-8, 240, Jr.) – 6.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg

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