North Carolina blew out an unranked Texas last season and would appear to have a chance to repeat that performance against a young team that's still finding its way.
The 23rd-ranked Tar Heels, though, didn't have one of their more confident performances last time out and will have to visit the Longhorns for Wednesday night's rematch.
North Carolina snapped a four-game skid to Texas with an 82-63 victory Dec. 21 in Chapel Hill, leading by double digits for much of the final 32 minutes of that game. In the previous three matchups, the Tar Heels (8-2) had to face ranked Longhorns squads.
This time, North Carolina will get to face a team that's off to its worst start since 1998-99, coach Rick Barnes' first season. The Longhorns (6-4), though, are 5-0 at home, and they've won 14 straight over non-conference visitors.
The Tar Heels, meanwhile, have lost in two of their past three games away from home but to teams that are currently ranked, No. 6 Indiana and No. 19 Butler. However, they nearly gave away an 18-point lead in the final 7:19 to East Carolina at home Saturday.
North Carolina allowed the Pirates to get within four with 27 seconds left but Dexter Strickland hit a pair of key free throws and Leslie McDonald knocked down a jumper with nine seconds to go in a 93-87 win.
James Michael McAdoo scored 19 points after having a season-low nine in a 78-55 win over East Tennessee State on Dec. 8, and Strickland recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 assists.
The Tar Heels, though, didn't get an offensive rebound from any of their post players and gave up 61 points in the second half. They've allowed at least 83 points in three of their last four games.
"We want to come out with a sense of urgency every game we play. We want to be ready and focused every game we play, so when we play like that it's kind of frustrating," Strickland said. "It's just something you've got to learn from, something you've got to build on."
Texas might feel the same way after pulling away from Texas State for a 75-63 victory Saturday to bounce back from consecutive losses. The Longhorns didn't commit a turnover for the final 10 1/2 minutes and freshman guard Javan Felix had a career-high 20 points, giving him back-to-back games in double digits for the first time.
Sophomore forward Jonathan Holmes also recorded his first career double-double with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Texas' contributors are all underclassmen and one of those, starting point guard Myck Kabongo, has yet to see the floor this season due to an ongoing NCAA investigation. Sophomore reserve Jaylen Bond is dealing with a foot injury.
With those players out, the Longhorns are averaging 63.3 points after scoring 72.6 per game in 2011-12. They've tried to compensate by holding opponents to an average of 58.2 points on 33.2 percent shooting.
"You've just got to go into it with a mindset of getting better every day. Build on the positive. And that's what we've been trying to do as a young group," Felix said.
Texas has dropped 12 of 13 against ranked opponents and fell 64-41 to then-No. 15 Georgetown on Dec. 4, in its only such matchup this season. It shot 29.2 percent and finished with the fewest points in Barnes' tenure.
The Associated Press News Service
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