North Carolina seeks rhythm at home vs. Northeastern

NCAA

North Carolina needs to play games, coach Roy Williams said.

The Tar Heels need to win them, too.

Faced with the possibility of another week with just one game, the program sought potential opponents to fill the latest gap in the schedule. As a result, the Tar Heels added a nonconference matchup with visiting Northeastern for Wednesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.

North Carolina (12-7) was supposed to play nationally ranked Virginia Tech on Tuesday night at home, but that game was wiped out by Virginia Tech’s coronavirus issues. Eight nights earlier, North Carolina’s home game against Miami was called off just hours before the scheduled tip-off after at least two North Carolina players without masks were seen on video celebrating the team’s Feb. 6 victory at Duke.

North Carolina has had three ACC home games called off, and they potentially won’t be contested (also vs. Clemson). The matchup with Northeastern replaces one of those three on the Tar Heels’ overall slate.

So far, the Tar Heels have played six home games. Two of those were in nonleague play.

“That’s not a good situation,” Williams said of the reduced home schedule.

Northeastern (9-7) holds second place in the Colonial Athletic Association with an 8-2 league record. The Huskies are coming off a two-game split at Towson last weekend after not playing since Jan. 24 while four games were postponed. They lost 68-57 on Sunday to a four-win Towson team.

Still, Huskies guard Tyson Walker was named the CAA Player of the Week after posting 36 points a day earlier in the team’s victory. That performance included seven 3-point baskets for the sophomore. He’s a three-time CAA Player of the Week this season.

Northeastern was in need of games because this weekend’s pair against visiting UNC Wilmington have been called off due to UNCW’s coronavirus issues.

North Carolina is coming off Saturday night’s 60-48 loss to then-No. 9 Virginia. Freshman Walker Kessler led the Tar Heels in scoring with nine points, marking the first time the team didn’t have a double-digit scorer in a game since March 1966.

Williams said the Tar Heels can benefit from a more normal schedule.

“It’s hard to get rhythm,” he said of the disjointed flow of the season. “It’s hard to get into a routine.”

Northeastern has played other opponents from power conferences this season, falling at Syracuse, Georgia and West Virginia.

“We want to play hard. We want to play smart and we want to play together,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said of his team’s quest earlier in the season against higher-profile foes. “This team has done that. They’re growing day by day.”

Coen, who’s in his 15th season, is tied with Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun as the winningest coach in school history with 250 victories.

North Carolina opened the season by defeating CAA member College of Charleston. The team’s other nonleague home game was supposed to be against Elon of the CAA, but that was nixed when Elon was in a coronavirus-related pause. The Tar Heels filled that gap by facing North Carolina Central.

This will be the latest nonleague game in a regular season for North Carolina in 18 years. For Northeastern, it’s the first February nonconference game since a home matchup with Stony Brook in 2012 in what was part of a batch of games referred to as Bracketbusters.

North Carolina won the only previous meeting with the Huskies, rolling in a 1991 NCAA Tournament first-round game in Syracuse, N.Y.

–Field Level Media

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