Uncasville, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - The only game of the day to feature a pair of nationally-ranked teams, championship round action in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip Off at Mohegan Sun Arena finds the 24th- ranked North Carolina Tar Heels tangling with the third-ranked and unbeaten Louisville Cardinals.
Louisville, the defending national champion, is off to a 5-0 start after taking down Fairfield in this venue on Saturday, 71-57. Other victories in this tournament for the Cardinals, a team which doesn't play a true road game until Dec. 21 when it battles FIU in Miami, have come against Hofstra and Hartford.
As for the Tar Heels, a team which bowed to Belmont in the event a week ago, they managed to grab an 82-72 win over Richmond on Saturday. The other two victories on the calendar for UNC were against Oakland and Holy Cross, the latter also being part of this tournament.
In terms of the all-time series between these two historic programs, the Heels are ahead by a count of 8-3. The most recent meeting took place in the 2008 NCAA Tournament East Regional final in Charlotte where UNC captured an 83-73 win.
Against the Spiders, North Carolina got off to a bit of a slow start, shooting only 40.7 percent from the field and 1-of-5 behind the 3-point line in the first half, yet the team led by three at the break and eventually captured the double-digit triumph thanks to a 53.8 percent effort over the finally 20 minutes of action. Brice Johnson played a huge role off the bench for UNC as he registered a double-double in only 22 minutes of action, putting up 24 points and pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds. Marcus Paige accounted for a team-high 26 points as he sank 6-of-9 shots out on the perimeter, while J.P. Tokoto added 10 points.
Averaging more than 35 minutes per game, Paige is generating a team-best 20.0 ppg for the Tar Heels, thanks in large part to his 51.9 percent shooting beyond the arc. It also doesn't hurt that the team's top assist man (16) is also shooting 88.9 percent at the free-throw line either. James Michael McAdoo checks in with 17.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg, his efforts on the glass second only to Johnson (15.0 ppg) who has cleared 7.8 rpg and done all his damage coming off the bench.
Except for Stephan Van Tresse who was held scoreless as he attempted just a single field goal attempt over the course of 22 minutes, every starter scored in double figures for the Cardinals in their win against Fairfield on Saturday. Montrezl Harrell registered a double-double for Louisville with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Chris Jones led all scorers with 15 points, to go along with four rebounds and four steals. Wayne Blackshear and Russ Smith pitched in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Scoring at least 70 points in every game thus far, the Cardinals are now generating 84.8 ppg thanks to the efforts of Smith (17.0 ppg), Harrell (14.0 ppg), Jones (13.4 ppg) and Blackshear (11.2 ppg). Harrell, a 63.0 percent shooter from the floor, is also responsible for 9.8 rpg to help provide the program with a rebounding edge of close to seven per game at this juncture.