North Carolina is getting the bulk of its scoring from its frontcourt. That unit should face quite a test when the NCAA’s leading shot blocker comes to Chapel Hill.
The No. 10 Tar Heels continue a three-game homestand Monday night when they meet Hamady Ndiaye and Rutgers at the Smith Center.
North Carolina (9-3) lost its top four scorers from last season’s club that won the national championship, but Deon Thompson is averaging 16.1 points and fellow forward Ed Davis 15.0 to pick up the slack. Reserve 7-foot forward Tyler Zeller is fourth at 10.5 points per game.
The team’s third-leading scorer, however, won’t be available. Swingman Marcus Ginyard, averaging 11.0 points, will sit out Monday and possibly Wednesday’s matchup with Albany due to a sprained right ankle suffered in practice Saturday.
The Tar Heels hope to overcome Ginyard’s absence as they go up against Ndiaye, a 6-foot-11 senior center who is averaging 5.7 blocks. Ndiaye set a career high with 10 blocks and scored 15 points in a 66-42 win over St. Peter’s last Tuesday.
Rutgers (9-2) set a school record with 18 blocked shots.
“Eighteen blocks. That tells me that my teammates are doing what I’m doing, too,” Ndiaye said. “Our defense is really a step up. Coming into today I wanted them to understand it’s not the holidays yet, we still had to take care of business and come out with intensity.”
Ndiaye has totaled nine points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks in three career games against the Tar Heels, who have posted blowouts over Rutgers in each of the last three seasons by an average of 24.3 points, winning 97-75 last season. North Carolina’s average halftime lead in those games is 16.3 points.
The Scarlet Knights have lost their last 10 meetings with the Tar Heels.
North Carolina bounced back from a 103-90 loss to No. 2 Texas on Dec. 19 with Tuesday’s 98-61 home rout of Marshall. The Tar Heels were outrebounded 60-41 in the loss to the Longhorns before holding a commanding 53-34 edge against the Thundering Herd.
“We just have to be aggressive at all times. We have to box out, especially against a long, athletic team,” Davis said.
The Tar Heels successfully neutralized another one of the nation’s top shot blockers in Marshall forward Hassan Whiteside, who is averaging 5.1 blocks to rank third in Division I. Whiteside had seven points, four rebounds and three blocks - all well below his averages.
North Carolina led 44-35 at halftime before pulling away.
“Any time around here where you lose a game, people tend to overreact - particularly when it’s very good teams,” coach Roy Williams said. “I overreact because I want us to play better. It’s not just the outcome of the game.”
The Tar Heels are seven wins shy of becoming the second NCAA team to reach 2,000 after Kentucky became the first last week.
Rutgers has won six straight, but has yet to play a game outside the state of New Jersey this season. The Scarlet Knights have limited opponents to 33.3 percent shooting during their win streak, holding St. Peter’s to 23.3 percent Tuesday.
“It was outstanding, for the first time, for 40 minutes,” coach Fred Hill said. “We challenged our guys today.”
Rutgers has lost 11 straight against Top 25 opponents since beating No. 13 Pittsburgh on Jan. 26, 2008.
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