North Carolina (10-2) vs. Northern Iowa (5-5)
Chapel Hill, N.C. – Dean E. Smith Center
Wednesday, 8 p.m.
ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien, Fran Fraschilla)
“It has to change, and it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about this team or last year’s team or next year’s team, you have to rebound the basketball — and everybody understands that. So that part of it needs to change.” - UNI head coach Ben Jacobson on his team's struggles to rebound
“Coach Jacobson does a great job of coaching them, and they run their stuff and he gets the players that are great for him... Half of their shots are three-pointers. Jeremy Morgan is back, but they did lose some key pieces from last year’s team. Jeremy Morgan leads them in every statistical category… He’s a pretty darn good player. We have to be ready to play, we know what it’s going to take.” – UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath on Northern Iowa
Tar Heels Lose a Classic: UNC traveled to Las Vegas on Saturday for a matchup with fellow top-10 opponent Kentucky. After spending much of the game chasing the Wildcats from behind, Roy Williams's side fell just short, 103-100. The Tar Heels had no answer for Kentucky freshman Malik Monk, who dropped 47 points, including a go-ahead three with 16.7 seconds left to play. Even with the loss, there were several bright spots in UNC’s performance, like a career-high 34 points for wing Justin Jackson. Guard Joel Berry also returned to the starting lineup after missing the two previous games due to an ankle injury. Berry scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting in his first game back.
Northern Iowa Spotlight: The Panthers come into Wednesday’s matchup with a 5-5 record. After a 3-0 start to the 2016-17 campaign, coach Ben Jacobson’s side has faltered, dropping five of its last seven games. Not much has looked good for Jacobson’s team after a successful 2015-16 season that saw the Panthers reach the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Ten games into the season, UNI ranks 319th nationally in field goal percentage (.404), 332nd in total rebounding (307), and 311th in points per game (66.3). The only area of the Panthers' game that has found any success is from behind the three-point line. Northern Iowa ranks 53rd in the country in three-point shooting.
Starting Lineup Rotation: Due to a combination of injuries and lackluster performances, Jacobson has used five different starting lineups in his team’s first 10 games. This constant rotation of players has incidentally shown the depth of the Panthers squad – 10 Northern Iowa players are averaging over 10 minutes of playing time per game. Of that core group of, senior guard Jeremy Morgan has stood out and started every game. The 6-foot-5 Morgan leads the Panthers in scoring (17.7 ppg), rebounding (7.5 rpg), assists (3.3 apg), and steals (2.7 spg). He scored 10 points in UNI’s upset victory over UNC last year.
Matchup to Watch: With Northern Iowa’s inability to match up with the Tar Heels in the paint, look for the Panthers to try and keep up with UNC from beyond the arc. UNI has four players shooting over 40-percent this season from three, and shoot 37.8-percent as a team. The two players who will be the biggest threats will be guard Jordan Ashton and the aforementioned Morgan. Especially in light of what happened in on Saturday in Las Vegas (Monk was 8-of-12 from three), look for UNC guards Joel Berry, Nate Britt, and Kenny Williams to stay focused on playing their men tight on the perimeter and not leaving much room.
Last Meeting: Northern Iowa upset UNC, 71-67, in the first and only meeting between these two programs on Nov. 21, 2015. The Tar Heels led by 16 points in the second half before the Panthers took the lead with a 29-8 run. Justin Jackson led UNC with 25 points.
Projected UNC Starters:
2 Joel Berry (6-0, 195, Jr.) – 15.6 ppg, 4.9 apg
3 Kennedy Meeks (6-10, 260, Sr.) - 12.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg
4 Isaiah Hicks (6-9, 242, Sr.) - 12.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg
44 Justin Jackson (6-8, 210, Jr.) – 17.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg
24 Kenny Williams (6-4, 180, So.) - 7.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Projected UNI Starters:
20 Jeremy Morgan (6-5, 195, Sr.) – 17.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg
02 Klint Carlson (6-7, 222, Jr.) – 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg
13 Juwan McCloud (5-11, 173, Fr.) - 3.6 ppg, 1.8 apg
3 Ted Friedman (6-9, 245, Jr.) – 1.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg
30 Spencer Haldeman (6-1, 173, Fr.) – 10.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg