The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday March 7th

Preview: How UNC basketball can capitalize on Nwora's struggles to beat Louisville

Junior forward (15) Garrison Brooks celebrates after a dunk during the game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 in Cassel Coliseum. UNC lost to VT 79-77.
Buy Photos Junior forward (15) Garrison Brooks celebrates after a dunk during the game against Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 in Cassel Coliseum. UNC lost to VT 79-77.

The North Carolina men's basketball team's 2019-20 season has been one of the most unpredictable of the 21st century.

The Tar Heels have blown game after game and the home winning streak against Clemson finally came to an end, but UNC has also gone down to the wire against some of the premier teams in the country in games against Duke, Florida State and Oregon.

Looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Louisville, there's an infinite number of scenarios in which this ACC contest could play out. Regardless of the Tar Heels' Jekyll and Hyde outings this year, these three areas should prove to be crucial in Saturday's game.

Capitalize on Jordan Nwora's struggles

Nwora was voted this year's ACC Preseason Player of the Year and has lived up to those lofty expectations for the majority of this season, averaging 18.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game on 45.4 percent shooting this year.

Heading into Wednesday's Syracuse game, the forward has fallen into a slump, though. Against Georgia Tech, Nwora played just 24 minutes after being yanked out of the game multiple times for some extended periods by head coach Chris Mack. The junior was held to a season-low two points on 1-6 shooting to go with four turnovers in the 64-58 loss.

In Louisville's following game against Clemson, a 77-62 defeat to the Tigers, Nwora came off the bench for the first time this season and managed five points in 29 minutes of action.

Nwora is the only member of the Cardinals averaging double digits in scoring as Louisville prepares to take on Syracuse, making Saturday's game against the Tar Heels a rare opportunity for UNC to take advantage of a weakened Louisville roster.

Attack the paint

One of the biggest takeaways from North Carolina's 77-76 loss to Notre Dame on Monday was the offensive potential the Tar Heels have when Cole Anthony and Garrison Brooks are on the same page.

The two combined for 45 of UNC's 76 points and dominated the paint against the Fighting Irish. Anthony and Brooks are first and second in scoring for the Tar Heels at 19.5 and 15.2 points per game, respectively.

If Anthony continues to see success driving to the basket and Brooks gets good looks in the post, North Carolina should be able to capitalize on Louisville's below-average interior defense.

The Cardinals are tied for 206th in the country in total blocks at 75, but hold their opponents to just 30.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. Outside shooting might not get the job done, so the Tar Heels will need to win the battle in the post to have a shot at leaving the KFC Yum! Center with a win.

Build an early lead (and maintain it)

Throughout the month of February — and most of this season — UNC has simply been unable to play at a consistent level for 40 minutes.

Against Florida State, the Tar Heels led by eight in the closing minutes of the first half before the Seminoles rattled off nine unanswered points to lead at the break and went on to win, 65-59.

In the overtime thriller against Duke, North Carolina led by as many as 13 before collapsing late in the game. The Fighting Irish closed out Monday's meeting with UNC on a 28-12 run to sneak out with a win at home.

If the Tar Heels hope to pull off the upset against the Cardinals — and keep their fanbase from having any more heart attacks — they'll have to keep a wide scoring margin against Louisville and avoid a late collapse.


@DTHSports |

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