Tar Heels play host to Blazers

Dec 27, 2014 - 3:23 PM Chapel Hill, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Returning to work after a seven-day holiday break, the 20th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will play host to the UAB Blazers in a non-conference matchup at the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday afternoon.

Roy Williams' Tar Heels were last in action on Dec. 20, when they took down the Ohio State Buckeyes (82-74) in a Top-25 showdown at the United Center in Chicago. The win was the second straight and third in the last four outings for UNC, which moved to 8-3 on the season.

Jerod Haase's third season at UAB has gotten off to a rocky start. The Blazers are just 4-8 on the year and have lost three of their last four outings. The team was last in action on Dec. 22, falling at Chattanooga, 83-67. UAB has lost all four games outside of Bartow Arena this season.

North Carolina holds a 3-1 series advantage with UAB, but it was the Blazers who earned the win last year at home, shocking the Tar Heels in a 63-59 decision in Birmingham.

The Blazers just haven't been able to find much consistency this season, especially on the offensive end, where the team is generating just 66.8 ppg on a modest .409 shooting percentage. UAB has also struggled in the rebounding department with a -3.5 margin. Robert Brown has started all 12 games for UAB and has been the only reliable scoring threat at 13.6 ppg. Limiting support comes in the form of C.J. Washington (9.8 ppg) and Tyler Madison (8.0 ppg).

UAB came out cold against the Mocs last time out, shooting an ugly .290 from the floor in the first half and heading into halftime with a 21-point deficit. The chasm was too great to overcome in the second half, as the Blazers dropped their eighth game of the season. Three Blazers finished in double figures in the loss, led by Brown and his 19 points. Hakeem Baxter came off the bench to tally 15 points, while Nick Norton finished with 12.

North Carolina has had very few problems generating offense this season. The Tar Heels are putting up 80.2 ppg and doing so on a healthy .452 shooting. In addition, the team has dominated on the glass, outrebounding foes by nine caroms per contest. Three of the team's five starters are boasting of double- digit scoring averages, led by Marcus Paige's 13.4 ppg. Kennedy Meeks is the resident muscle down low, netting 13.3 ppg on .615 shooting, while grabbing a team-best 9.5 rpg. Brice Johnson adds 11.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Justin Jackson and J.P. Tokoto are just under the double-digit mark with 9.5 and 9.1 ppg, respectively.

The Tar Heels got off to a fast start against the Buckeyes last week, shooting 51.5 percent from the floor in the first half to earn a 12-point lead at the break (43-31). The team cooled off considerably in the second half, but was able to earn the win nonetheless. UNC held a huge edge in rebounding (53-40) and really moved the ball well, with 23 assists in the game. Johnson led the way with a near double-double, finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds. Paige poured in 16 points, while Jackson finished with 11. Meeks struggled offensively (3-of-10) and finished with eight points, although he did grab a game-high 13 boards.

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