With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the North Carolina men’s basketball team is running out of time to find its rhythm.
After previously winning 10 of their last 12 games, the Tar Heels have dropped two straight and are in the midst of one of the most difficult stretches of the season, with six matchups looming against teams in NCAA Tournament contention.
On Tuesday, UNC will head to Winston-Salem to square off against Wake Forest. The Tar Heels beat the Demon Deacons 88-79 in early January, but will face a series of challenges as they head into their upcoming contest.
Here are three keys for the Tar Heels to pull off a must-win game on the road:
Contain Tyree Appleby
The Demon Deacons boast one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation and rank in the top-20 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Bart Torvik's advanced metric system. At its helm is point guard Tyree Appleby, who leads the team with 18 points and six assists per game.
Since the beginning of the new year, Appleby's usage has reached new heights, as he has played at least 38 minutes in 11 of his past 12 outings. Although Wake Forest recently trudged through a 4-game losing streak, the Florida transfer has remained productive during the stretch, even racking up 27 points in a narrow 75-73 loss at Duke.
Appleby does most of his work in open space on the perimeter and has the green light to shoot at will. He's attempted 293 shots thus far and 43.7 percent of his shots have come from behind the arc.
UNC's Caleb Love was the primary defender on Appleby in the last matchup, and the junior guard held him to an inefficient 5-15 shooting clip. While the Tar Heels have recently struggled to contain lead guards, minimizing Wake Forest's backcourt production will be critical if the game comes down to the wire.