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In order to be successful No. 16 North Carolina needs more from its big men

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When his former player and longtime assistant Jerod Haase was hired as the head coach at UAB, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams threw his protege a bone by agreeing to play a game at UAB. And on Sunday night the Blazers took full advantage of the opportunity, knocking off the 16th-ranked Tar Heels 63-59 behind a 25-point effort from junior Chad Frazier.

The problem for North Carolina: they were outclassed on the glass. UAB out-rebounded North Carolina 52-37 (Fahro Alihodzic grabbed 13 of those 52 boards) with 21 of those boards coming on the offensive end, which works out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 44.7%. The Blazers may have been outscored 13-12 in second chance points, but those rebounding numbers made a major difference as UAB built a lead that reached 15 points late in the first half.

Just one week ago there was optimism regarding North Carolina’s play in a win over Louisville, with sophomore guard Marcus Paige being the biggest reason why. UAB was able to limit Paige to 13 points on 6-for-16 shooting, with 11 of those points scored in the second half. J.P. Tokoto was the biggest reason why UNC was able to remain within striking distance at the half, as he scored nine of his team-high 17 points.

If anything was learned on Sunday night it’s that regardless of who the Tar Heels have on the perimeter and how much Paige scores, the big men have to show up on a nightly basis. That includes James Michael McAdoo, who accounted for just six points (3-for-13 FG) and four rebounds against UAB. Simply put that kind of effort won’t get the job done, especially when considering the fact that he entered the game averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Joel James, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combined to contribute 19 points and 19 rebounds against UAB, and while each has shown flashes at various points in the season are any really in position to be “the man” inside right now? Most would answer “no” to that question, and with that being the case North Carolina needs a collective effort inside if they’re to be successful.

Would it be nice to know the statuses of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald? Yes, and their return would give North Carolina two more perimeter shooters to help Paige carry the offensive load. But the absence of Hairston and McDonald shouldn’t have that much of an impact on how the big men rebound, and if North Carolina is to play at or close to the level they displayed last weekend they have to receive better play from the front court.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.