The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 5th

Here's what the Tar Heels need to do against Miami to end their five-game skid

Head Coach Roy Williams reacts during the game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 in Cassell Coliseum. After two overtimes, UNC fell to VT 79-77.
Buy Photos Head Coach Roy Williams reacts during the game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 in Cassell Coliseum. After two overtimes, UNC fell to VT 79-77.

With Wednesday night's dramatic double overtime loss to Virginia Tech, head coach Roy Williams continues searching for his 880th win, one more than Dean Smith, since the Tar Heels defeated Yale on Dec. 30.

As North Carolina returns home for a match-up with the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday, here are the three things the team needs to focus on to put an end to its five-game losing streak.

Continue to dominate the boards

One of the few impressive areas of North Carolina's season has been the team's ability to rebound. The Tar Heels have a plus-8.9 rebounding margin over their opponents this year, one of the best marks in the country.

Including the injured Cole Anthony, UNC has three players averaging more than six rebounds per game, with Garrison Brooks leading the way at 9.4 per contest. At 6.7 rebounds per game, Sam Waardenburg is the lone Miami player averaging over six.

Brooks and first-year Armando Bacot have combined for more than 100 offensive boards through the team's first 18 games, while Waardenburg and Rodney Miller Jr., the two best rebounders for the Hurricanes, have only collected a total of 70 offensive rebounds.

Expect North Carolina to take advantage in this area against a Miami team that has a rebounding margin of minus-4.7 this season.

Protect the ball

The Tar Heels have struggled to hold on to the ball, averaging 13.2 turnovers per game. Their minus-1.6 turnover margin ties them with Alabama for 289th out of 346 teams in the country.

Given the emphasis that Williams tends to put on maintaining possession, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the majority of the players who have spent the most time in Chapel Hill also show the most success in this aspect of their games.

Despite playing almost 200 minutes more than Anthony this year, sophomore Leaky Black has six less turnovers than the first-year. Justin Pierce, another new face on the team, has seen just 39 more minutes of action than UNC veteran Andrew Platek, yet Platek has committed nine turnovers to Pierce's 15.

Meanwhile, Miami is one of the worst teams in the nation when it comes to forcing opponents to lose the ball, ranking 285th. Saturday's match-up with the Hurricanes could prove to be a turning point in the way UNC attempts to retain possession of the ball for the rest of the season.

Stop the 3-pointer

Two starters for the Hurricanes, Dejan Vasiljevic and Chris Lykes, are shooting the ball more than 36 percent from behind the arc. Vasiljevic is knocking down 42.6 percent of 3-point shots this season, while Lykes is hitting from distance at a clip of 36.8 percent.

North Carolina ranks 250th in the nation at defending the deep ball, conceding 34.2 percent of its opponent's 3-pointers this year.

With senior guard Brandon Robinson missing the game against Virginia Tech following his car accident, the Tar Heels will certainly be pressed to limit Miami's 3-pointer's as well if their sharpshooter isn't able to return to the rotation.

In its two games against UNC last year, Miami combined to hit 23 of 52 3-point attempts, a feat that the Tar Heels will need to avoid repeating this year if they want to put an end to their recent skid.


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