Previewing Wake Forest

After losing three of the last four, the Tar Heels will try to get back on track, starting with Wednesday's game against Wake Forest. Tip-off at the Smith Center is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

North Carolina (12-6, 1-2) vs. Wake Forest (12-4, 2-2)
Chapel Hill, N.C. -- Dean E. Smith Center
7 p.m., ESPN (Mike Breen, Mark Jackson, Jeff Van Gundy)


"He's a courageous kid who tries to put the team on his back and carry them. But he has to make sure that he has vision when he has the basketball of some of our other guys on the floor. What we talked about was trusting his teammates a little bit more." – Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio on Demon Deacon point guard Ish Smith

"Our big guys are an integral part of our success. [Al-Farouq Aminu] has been playing really well throughout the year; thank goodness Chas McFarland is starting to come around and play like he's capable of playing. Those guys are really important to what we do, and they have to play well for Wake Forest to play well." – Gaudio

"Tyler Hansbrough demanded the basketball; he made you want to throw him the ball. He would run in and put his body against somebody, where he wanted to be. Since day one, we've been trying to emphasize to our big guys, 'Give us that option of throwing it inside to you.' We've been emphasizing it since the first day, and I think now they're starting to understand it even more." – UNC head coach Roy Williams on trying to get his post players to be more assertive down low


Season to Date: Wake Forest enters Wednesday's contest with a 12-4 (2-2 ACC) record. The Demon Deacons were stunned on Nov. 28, falling to William & Mary, 78-68, before losing to Purdue, 69-58, three days later in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. But Dino Gaudio's squad regrouped to knock off Gonzaga, 77-75, on the West coast on Dec. 5. Wake has won both home ACC games (N.C. State, Maryland) while losing both road contests (Miami, Duke).

Preseason All-American Living Up to Hype: Al-Farouq Aminu is averaging 17.6 points and an ACC-leading 11.6 rebounds per game this season, earning him the sophomore forward the title as the only player in the ACC that is averaging a double-double on the year. The Norcross, Ga. native leads the Deacons in blocked shots (22) and ranks second in assists (26) and third in steals (23) and 3-pointers (9). The 6-foot-9, 215-pounder is also knocking down 47.3 percent of his field goal opportunities, good for 10th in the conference.

Fantastic Freshmen: Most observers were prepared to hand Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors the ACC Rookie of the Year award before the season ever started, but Wake Forest guard C.J. Harris is giving the Yellow Jacket big man a run for his money. The Winston-Salem, N.C. native is a four-time ACC Rookie of the Week honoree, averaging 11.4 points per game while connecting on 39.6 percent of his 3-pointers (19-of-48) and 84.5 percent of his free throws (60-of-71, 3rd ACC). Fellow freshman Ari Stewart is averaging 8.2 points per contest and leads the team with a 41.7 3-point shooting percentage (20-of-48). The Marietta, Ga. forward has also won an ACC Rookie of the Week award.

An Ever-Improving Defense: Gaudio installed a new defensive system prior to the 2007-08 season, and the results are obvious. Wake Forest ranked last in the ACC in field goal percentage defense in 2006-07, improved to sixth in '07-'08 and finished last season ranked third in the league. So far this season, the Deacons rank third in the conference in field goal percentage defense (37.1) while leading the league in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.1).

Demons on the Boards: Wake Forest is grabbing an ACC-best 43.7 rebounds per game, thanks to conference-high marks in offensive (14.9) and defensive (28.8) rebounds. The Deacons rank sixth in the ACC and 26th nationally in rebounding margin (+6.1). That success on the boards has allowed Wake to score 14.3 second-chance points per game this season.

Random Fact of the Day: The ACC schedule makers were not very kind to the Demon Deacons this week. Wake Forest battles North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Wednesday after playing Duke in Durham on Sunday, marking the first time since 1978 and just the third time ever that the Deacons have encountered back-to-back road contests against their Tobacco Road rivals.

Last Meeting: No. 4 Wake Forest defeated the third-ranked Tar Heels, 92-89, on Jan. 11, 2009, in Winston-Salem, N.C. UNC connected on just 35.1 percent of its field goal attempts, including a 28.2 mark in the second half. Danny Green led North Carolina with 22 points while Tyler Hansbrough (11 rebounds) and Wayne Ellington both added 17 points.

Series History: North Carolina leads the all-time series against Wake Forest, 151-64.

Projected Starters:
10 Ishmael Smith (6-0, 175, Sr.) – 12.6 ppg, 5.9 apg
11 C.J. Harris (6-2, 175, Fr.) – 11.4 ppg
42 L.D. Williams (6-4, 210, Sr.) – 9.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg
1 Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215, So.) – 17.6 ppg, 11.6 rpg
13 Chas McFarland (7-0, 245, Sr.) – 6.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg

Top Reserves:
20 Ari Stewart (6-7, 205, Fr.) – 8.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg
2 Gary Clark (6-4, 195, Jr.) – 4.3 ppg
55 Tony Woods (6-11, 245, So.) – 3.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg
44 David Weaver (6-11, 250, Sr.) – 3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg

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Aminu ... Smith

Harris ... Williams

McFarland ... Stewart

(Photos by AP)

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