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Preview: Three keys to the game for UNC men's basketball's Tuesday match at Miami

UNC students cheer as junior forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks the ball at the game against Virginia at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill on Jan. 8, 2022. UNC won 74-58.

Saturday's 88-65 demolition of Georgia Tech may have been one of the UNC men's basketball team's best performances of the season so far, but no rest awaits them for the rest of January.

By the time the month draws to a close, the Tar Heels will have played five more games, with the first of that stretch being a road contest against the ACC-leading Miami Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

Here are three things North Carolina will have to do if it hopes to snatch a win in what will likely be its toughest test of the ACC schedule so far.

Shut down the scorers

Much easier said than done.

The Hurricanes boast two of the ACC's top 10 scorers in Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong. A sixth-year guard, McGusty is in the midst of his greatest season to date, averaging 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game on 50/37/83 shooting splits — all three of which are career highs.

Meanwhile, Wong, a third-year sophomore, is going through a bit of a downtick from his previous season, but is still good for almost 16 points a night. He's also had some huge performances in important conference wins this season, like a 25-point outing against Wake Forest on New Years' Day where he shot an impressive 11-of-18 from the field in a 92-84 Miami win.

If the Tar Heels are going to contain those two explosive forces, then junior forward and defensive switchblade Leaky Black will need to be at the top of his game. Against the Yellow Jackets, Black shut down 20-point-per-game scorer Michael Devoe, holding him to just a single basket. Of course, Black can't be in two places at once, so a collective team effort will be all but required if UNC is going to make it difficult for the Hurricanes to cash shots.

Feed the big man

When someone like junior big man Armando Bacot is playing as well as he is, the Tar Heels would be fools not to feed him the ball — and against Georgia Tech, they were not fools.

Frankly, the Ramblin' Wreck couldn't stop Bacot, who tied his career-high with 29 points, as well as 12 rebounds to mark his seventh-straight double-double. Against Virginia the game before, it was the same story, with Bacot notching 29 points and an even more ridiculous 22 rebounds. His performances didn't go unnoticed either, as he was named the ACC Player of the Week for a second consecutive week on Monday.

Bacot's dominance has allowed the Tar Heels' offense to flourish. The big man demands so much attention that he creates openings for players like sophomore guards RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Kerwin Walton to either drive into the paint or take a cleaner outside shot. 

Even if the defense can contain McGusty and Wong, the Tar Heels will need a big scoring night to defeat the Hurricanes. In the form he's in right now, giving the ball to a potential ACC Player of the Year in Bacot can only increase the chances of that happening.

Tune out the noise

Whether you believe in home court advantage or not, the numbers don't lie — the Tar Heels are sitting at 9-0 at home this season.

Away from the Smith Center, the story changes a little bit, with the Tar Heels showing a 3-4 record outside of Chapel Hill. Granted, three of those losses were at "neutral sites," but it's undeniable that a home atmosphere has done nothing but good for the Tar Heels this year.

Meanwhile, Miami has lost just a single contest in the Watsco Center, a shocking early-season loss to UCF. After that, though, it's been seven straight wins in Coral Gables for Jim Larrañaga's team, most recently defeating Syracuse 88-87 before a two-game road trip.

Sure, the Hurricanes may be last in the conference in attendance, but whatever fans are there will surely be giving the Tar Heels a rough time. Tuning out the road noise could be the psychological key to snagging a win against the best the ACC has to offer.


@dthsports |

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