By Adam Lucas
Stop me if this sounds familiar: going into tonight's 7 p.m. tipoff against Miami, the Tar Heels are once again uncertain about a member of their regular rotation. This time, it's Leslie McDonald, who "tweaked" his knee, according to Roy Williams, and sat out practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Williams's often-stated policy has been that if a player isn't healthy enough to practice on the day before a game, he probably isn't healthy enough to play in the game. McDonald struggled at Virginia, shooting 0-for-3 and going without a rebound or assist in 15 minutes. The shooting of McDonald and P.J. Hairston continues to be a very good indicator of the outcome for Carolina this season. In losses, the duo is shooting a combined 12-for-52, or 23.1%. But in the Tar Heels' ten victories, they are hitting at a 43.6% clip.
Last Five: You probably already know that Reggie Bullock has been one of Carolina's most consistent players lately, and his 22 points kept the Tar Heels in the game at Charlottesville on Sunday night. But he's also doing the job on the glass: Bullock's 7.5 rebounds per game over Carolina's last five outings is second-best on the team, narrowly trailing James Michael McAdoo's 7.8 in that same span.
Backcourt Battle: Carolina starting guards Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland may have their toughest defensive assignment of the season so far tonight. Durand Scott is the ACC's leading returning all-time scorer, and Shane Larkin is significantly improved in almost every category from his freshman campaign. The Scott/Larkin duo are Miami's two leading scorers (Scott at 14.7 ppg, Larkin at 12.8). Scott is more of a penetrator, taking roughly just a fifth of his shots from outside the three-point line, while Larkin is the more dangerous perimeter scorer, with seven games making multiple three-pointers this season.
Scott had a memorable 29-point outburst against the Tar Heels as a freshman, then added 18 as a sophomore, but was held relatively in check last year, as he averaged 13.5 points in two games against Carolina.
Notes: Watch out for the Hurricanes coming out of the halftime break. Miami has outscored its last two opponents (Georgia Tech and LaSalle) by a combined 51-22 in the first 12 minutes after halftime...Tonight marks the beginning of an unusual January stretch. The Tar Heels will fly to Tallahassee less than 24 hours after playing the Hurricanes, but then get a full week off after the game against the Seminoles. Carolina swept a two-day turnaround at home against Georgia Tech and on the road at Wake Forest last season, but has not swept a two-day turnaround that involves a flight since a 2009 sweep of Virginia on the road and a home game against Miami...
The Tar Heels are riding a 10-game winning streak against the Hurricanes, their second-longest active winning streak against any ACC club. The games haven't been particularly close; the average UNC margin of victory in those 10 games has been 12.6 points...Desmond Hubert was Carolina's defensive player of the game at Virginia, as selected by the coaches based on their film review.