Tue, 25 Jan 2022

Rested UNC, No. 24 Michigan collide in ACC-Big Ten Challenge

Field Level Media
01 Dec 2021, 06:19 GMT+10

No. 24 Michigan and North Carolina might look a little bit different when they square off Wednesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.

With more time than usual to prepare for their matchup in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, defensive adjustments and potential rotation changes were addressed.

That's what each team needed, according to their coaches.

Michigan played four games in nine nights prior to the break in the schedule. Two teams now ranked in the Top 25 knocked off the Wolverines. They fell to Arizona and suffered a two-point home loss to Seton Hall during that stretch.

"To get away from the game and be able to enjoy your family," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said of the gap in the schedule. "To reset the mind because they need it."

North Carolina's Hubert Davis said the plan for his team during the layoff was to bond on and off the court.

"We're going to practice a lot. We're going to get better," Davis said. "I'm excited about this (time) to get better as a team."

Michigan (4-2) recovered from an 18-point loss to Arizona by defeating Tarleton State 65-54 last Wednesday.

The Wolverines had three freshmen among their key contributors in their most-recent game: Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate and Frankie Collins.

"They're tough competitors who want to do whatever it takes to help the team win," Howard said.

Collins is a reserve, but Howard described him as "locked in."

Turnovers have been troublesome for the Wolverines. Meanwhile, North Carolina's problems might in part stem from not being disruptive enough at the defensive end. Davis reminded his players no team is a finished product in November or December.

"Very few teams, if any, are settled right now (through six games)," Davis said.

North Carolina is 3-0 at home, though wins against Brown and UNC Asheville came in less-than-impressive fashion.

"We've got to get better, plain and simple," Tar Heels forward Brady Manek said. "I don't know what it is. We've got to play better."

The Tar Heels haven't played since the UNC Asheville game Nov. 23.

"It was more about us figuring out what we didn't do and just correcting it," North Carolina forward Armando Bacot said. "We really realized we dropped the ball (in losses to Purdue and Tennessee), but we feel that's something that will help us out further into the season. We have to have a lot different approach."

That's the feeling that has spread among the Tar Heels after their shortcomings.

"We were not a team," Manek said. "We did not play as a team. ... We have to fix whatever is wrong. Everybody is down on us. We're down on ourselves. We have to get out of this hole that we dug for ourselves."

Manek said the Tar Heels can't waste any time snapping out of the doldrums with the Wolverines in town.

"If we're down at half, they're going to make us pay because they're going to be a good team," Manek said.

The Wolverines have won the past two meetings with North Carolina, most recently in November 2019.

Howard was part of the Fab Five with the Wolverines in the early 1990s. He was a sophomore on the Michigan team that finished runner-up to North Carolina by virtue of the 1993 NCAA title game loss.

--Field Level Media

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