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December 19, 2012The Tar Heels hit the road after its three-game homestand for its only road game before heading into ACC play as UNC (8-2) faces off with the struggling Texas Longhorns (6-4) in Austin Wednesday night.
This could have been the second matchup between these two schools, as the two teams were both in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. However, the Longhorns failed to beat Chaminade in the first round and lost to USC the next day before eventually taking seventh place with a win over Mississippi State.
This is the eighth matchup between the two storied programs, with Texas leading overall 4-3.
The last time the Tar Heels faced the Longhorns Harrison Barnes and company dominated throughout, winning 82-63 on December 21, 2011 in the Dean Dome.
But Rick Barnes seems to know how to get his team up for big matchups in Austin, as he owns a 29-14 record against Top 25 teams at home.
"It's been a long time since I've seen Rick have a team this young, and he'd probably say it's been a long time since I've coached a team as young as mine," said UNC head coach Roy Williams on Tuesday.
"We've both had veteran teams. We (Texas and Kansas) both went to the Final Four the same year (2003). We had a game where both teams scored 100 points. We've had some great battles."
The newest battle between Williams and Barnes' teams will take place at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, and begins around 9:00 pm eastern time.
Missing some of its firepower from past seasons, Texas has struggled early on this year at 6-4 so far.
Even though the Longhorns are 5-0 as the home team so far this year, Texas hasn't played many quality opponents so far and have lost to Division II Chaminade, a struggling USC team, and to UCLA in an almost empty arena in Houston.
"They are really good defensively. They do a great job of guarding the ball. And they can protect the basket," Williams said of Texas. "Rick Barnes is a really good coach. he does a nice job of getting his players to play well on the defensive end of the floor."
The Longhorns, coming off a victory over Texas State last week, only scored 75 points in the win, its highest point total so far this year. Just goes to show how this team is struggling to put up points against teams; the stats seem to back up that case.
Points per game: 63.3
FG% (3pt %): 40.8% (29.6%)
Rebounds per game (Off./ Def.): 40.4 (11.2/29.2)
Assists/ TO/ Steals per game: 11.7/17.8/6.2
Free Throw %: 63.9%
Two sophomore guards for the Longhorns have been putting up decent numbers so far this year and have really been the bright spot on the team.
Julien Lewis averages 11.2 points per game, while shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc.
Sheldon McClellan has been the other guard that has led the team in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game and has been in double digits every game so far this year.
The point guard situation is the troubling point for Texas, as the ineligibility of Myck Kabongo has really hurt them. With Kabongo not in the lineup, Barnes was forced to play freshman Javan Felix as the starting point guard.
Felix has averaged 8.7 points per game along with 5.8 assists, but Felix's shooting has been off so far this year (32.0 FG percentage/ 9.5 3pt percentage), but he did score 20 points in Texas's most recent outing, the win over Texas State.
"Felix is getting better and better every game. He has 20 the other night, 17 the night before. I liked him in high school. I thought he had a chance to be a good college player," said Williams. "Felix does a pretty good job out front, and with McClellan and (Jonathan) Holmes."
UNC averages 83.0 points per game on the road, but can be a misleading stat with the win over Chaminade, in which it scored 112 points.
UNC has only managed 78 and 59 points in its other outings, showing that the Tar Heels will need to be clicking on all cylinders in what should be a good test for the young team on the road.
Williams might put some pressure on the Longhorns early, to see if the young guards will be able to handle the bigger guards of UNC. Offensive rebounding will be a key point in this one, as Williams will want to see his team rebound better than they did last week.
Even though this will be a true road game for the Tar Heels, the firepower that UNC has and the lack of firepower for the Longhorns could be the ultimate deciding factor, as Texas might just not have enough in the tank to keep up.
Texas' strong defense, the ability to hit its shots and attack the rim, while rebounding the ball well will all be contributions it will need to stand a chance in this game.
After the game, UNC will be heading back home to play McNeese State on December 22, before matching up with UNLV on December 29.
Before you know it the regular season will be over and ACC play will be on deck, allowing the Tar Heels to show what they have learned early in the season.