Marquette vs. UNC has unexpected rivalry flavor

NCAA Basketball

North Carolina and Marquette haven’t met in men’s basketball in nearly a decade, and yet Tar Heels’ faithful already aren’t fond of the Golden Eagles.

What did a program based in Milwaukee do to offend the folks in Chapel Hill, N.C.? Their coach wore a different shade of blue as a collegian way back when.

Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski is a Duke alumnus.

Expect Wojciechowski to be reminded of such Wednesday night as the programs meet at UNC in a late addition to the nonconference slate. North Carolina initially was set to face Atlantic Coast Conference foe Boston College on Wednesday, but the ACC postponed the game as BC navigates program concerns related to COVID-19.

Such scrambling is nothing new for the Tar Heels (14-7, 8-5), who scheduled — and defeated — Northeastern on Feb. 17 after a scheduled game against Virginia Tech was postponed.

North Carolina leads the all-time series with Marquette 4-1. The Tar Heels defeated the Golden Eagles in the schools’ previous meeting, 81-63 in the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament that March.

The programs also met for the national championship in 1977, with Marquette winning 67-59 in Atlanta in the final game in the career of famed Marquette coach Al McGuire.

That remains Marquette’s only national title in men’s basketball.

North Carolina has won six of its past eight games and is coming off Saturday’s 99-54 rout of ACC rival Louisville. The Tar Heels established season highs for points and field-goal percentage (60.9), and Day’Ron Sharpe had 21 points and 11 rebounds to pace five North Carolina scorers in double figures.

“The biggest thing for us is we shot the ball well, which we haven’t done very often this year,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “And we didn’t turn it over very much — 29 (assists), 11 (turnovers). Those are kinds of things that we’ve been trying to emphasize more than anything.”

Marquette (10-12, 6-10) has been idle since snapping a three-game losing streak with a 73-57 road win against Butler on Feb. 17. Usual reserve Greg Elliott delivered the spark Wojciechowski was seeking, leading all scorers with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field while adding six rebounds in his first start since December 2019.

“I knew that I needed to come out and be aggressive, look for my shot early,” Elliott said. “Getting the start boosted my confidence, but my teammates told me to be aggressive and gave me confidence as well.”

–Field Level Media

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