North Carolina basketball heads to Indiana for its first true road game of the season with hopes of avoiding its first three-game losing streak since February 2020.
After back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, the Tar Heels (5-2) went from No. 1 to 18th in the AP poll. The program lost consecutive games as the top-ranked team for the first time since 1986.
UNC will look to get back on track against the 10th-ranked Hoosiers (6-0) on Wednesday (9:15 p.m., ESPN) at Assembly Hall.
Here are some things to know and score a prediction ahead of Carolina’s eighth game of the season.
Armando Bacot injury
The Tar Heels were fearful they might be without Armando Bacot on Wednesday night in Bloomington, but head coach Hubert Davis said "everybody practiced" Tuesday.
Davis expects Bacot to play against the Hoosiers. Following Sunday's game, Bacot told reporters he felt "sharp pains" in his right ankle, but he's going to try his hardest to play Wednesday.
Bacot, a preseason All-American, is averaging 16.5 points and 11.5 rebounds. The senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the quadruple overtime loss to Alabama, but played sparingly in the extra periods.
If Bacot is limited, graduate transfer Pete Nance would likely be tasked with slowing down Indiana star Trayce Jackson-Davis. The preseason All-American big man is averaging 18.8 points and 8.0 rebounds.
BOLD PREDICTIONS:Five bold predictions for UNC basketball in 2022-23 season
Bacot’s absence would also give Hubert Davis a chance to see what his reserves have to offer in a big-game environment. After playing 48 minutes off the bench against Alabama, junior wing Puff Johnson seems like the likely candidate to slide into the starting lineup.
Freshman guard Seth Trimble also seems likely to see his minutes increase Wednesday. Either way, if Bacot is unable to go, it presents a tall task for the Tar Heels.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Tar Heels showed an inability to finish games.
UNC led down the stretch in their losses against Iowa State and Alabama, but failed to show an ability to close as turnovers and shaky execution hindered the Heels in the latter stages.
It’s unlikely Hubert Davis drew up contested, step-back 3-pointers as UNC’s primary option in those late-game situations, yet the Tar Heels had several of them in both losses.
Carolina had an eight-point lead (57-49) with just under six minutes remaining against Iowa State before the Cyclones closed the game with a 21-8 run. The Heels led 95-89 with 3:39 left in the third overtime against the Crimson Tide, but scored just one more point the rest of the way as Alabama pushed the game to another period.
If UNC is going to snap its skid, the Tar Heels will need to be better in late-game situations.
Spreading the wealth
The numbers can be a bit skewed following a four-overtime game, but through seven games junior guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love have attempted 51% of UNC’s shots.
Davis and Love are shooting a combined 41% overall and 26% from 3-point range.
Pete Nance is knocking down 51 percent of his shots, including a 41 percent clip from beyond the arc. Nance has taken 73 fewer shots than Love.
Bacot has made 56% of his attempts, but has 30 fewer shot attempts than Davis and 55 fewer than Love. In stretches, the Tar Heels have relied on isolation situations more than ball movement.
Through seven games, UNC has the same amount of assists (84) as it does turnovers (84).
UNC vs. Indiana score prediction
UNC 75, Indiana 71: If Bacot is limited in his effectiveness, this prediction would swing in favor of the Hoosiers. But after back-to-back losses to quality competition and the loss of No. 1 in front of its name, UNC has the chance for a reset. The Heels will lean on their experienced guards and a big performance from Pete Nance to get it done in Bloomington.
Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @RoddBaxley on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: UNC basketball score prediction vs. Indiana: Our scouting report