North Carolina has gone seven games without unleashing the type of offense that often defines the Tar Heels.
The next assignment is against a team that has produced some strong defensive outings.
The seventh-ranked Tar Heels welcome No. 6 Ohio State to the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C., for a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game on Wednesday night.
Ohio State (7-0) hasn’t allowed an opponent to reach 60 points this season. However, this will be the Buckeyes’ first game outside of Columbus, Ohio.
The Tar Heels (6-1) have gone seven games to open a season without scoring at least 80 points once for the first time since 1949-50.
Still, there were some good trends to come out of the three-game trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis after North Carolina secured third place by defeating nationally ranked Oregon.
North Carolina made 20 of 21 free throws for its best percentage in a game (with at least 20 attempts) in 13 seasons.
Freshman forward Armando Bacot’s 23-point, 12-rebound outing showed that the Tar Heels have more than one explosive freshman in addition to point guard Cole Anthony.
“Attack the offensive glass and do the moves that we work on every day,” Bacot said of what got him going offensively. “I feel like that’s what made a huge difference.”
Senior swingman Brandon Robinson’s career-high 13 points were a much-needed contribution and another source of offense that the Tar Heels could be anxious to tap. Robinson’s ability to score from the perimeter could force opposing defenses to loosen up in the lane.
“I think it gives us a threat outside so we can get the ball inside,” Robinson said. “I still think I can be a lot better in my shot selection, so I just have to improve that going forward.”
Ohio State has limited two opponents to less than 20 first-half points.
“Defense first and then offense,” Buckeyes sophomore guard Luther Muhammad said. “I’m a defense-first guy, that’s what I like to do every night.”
The Buckeyes are hoping that the opening weeks of home games put them in a good place as larger tasks loom.
“We need to be prepared for the moment whenever it comes,” guard Duane Washington Jr. said. “We had a serious approach going into this year.”
The Buckeyes are expecting more challenges, and that means continuing to find ways to score against different types of defenses.
“We’re going to have to get better in that for sure, executing in the half court,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.
Bacot’s presence at the defensive end could turn out to be just as valuable for the Tar Heels. His six blocked shots in the Oregon game were the most for a North Carolina player since a 2016 NCAA Tournament game.
“They are driving there. They are trying to figure out where he is,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
North Carolina starting guard Leaky Black didn’t play in the second half of the Oregon game because of a toe injury that seemed to worsen. That could make the sophomore’s status for the Ohio State game in question.
Ohio State will be playing its final game before opening the Big Ten Conference schedule on Saturday vs. Penn State. North Carolina, which beat Notre Dame in the season opener in an ACC game, plays at defending league co-champion and national champion Virginia on Sunday.
–Field Level Media