UNC Basketball returns home for important ACC clash vs. Wake Forest

The UNC basketball program has a quick turnaround following a weekend trip as they'll host Wake Forest in an important ACC clash.

North Carolina v Wake Forest
North Carolina v Wake Forest / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

The UNC basketball program is off to its best start in the conference since the 2015-16 season. The Tar Heels are a perfect 7-0 in conference and are coming off of a gritty win against Boston College 76-66 on Saturday afternoon. North Carolina is also on an eight-game winning streak, having won all eight games by 10+ points.

The Wake Forest basketball program is also off to a strong start in ACC play. The Demon Deacons are tied for second place with a 5-2 record in the ACC and have a 13-5 record overall. Wake Forest is coming off a dominant 90-65 win over Louisville on Saturday.

ESPN. Monday, January 22, 2024. . 15-3. 441. MATCHUP. 13-5. 448. 7:00 PM EST

Key to Victory for North Carolina

Although they've been winning, the Tar Heels tend to let one player have their way against them offensively. In their previous game against Boston College, they allowed Quinten Post to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds, many of them offensive.

The most notable performance was in the beginning of the season against Tennessee, where they allowed Dalton Knecht to explode for 37 points that almost brought the Volunteers back from a large deficit to win. Wake Forest has five players averaging 12+ points on the year, but their best scorer is Hunter Sallis. The Gonzaga transfer is averaging 18 points per game this season, and it will be important for the Tar Heels to shut him down in front of his home crowd.

The UNC basketball program needs to run Wake Forest off of the three-point line. The Demon Deacons are tied for the best three-point percentage as a team this season with Miami. Wake Forest knocks down about 40% of their attempts, and they can get hot in a hurry. This will be a battle of best-on-best in this category, as North Carolina allows the lowest three-point percentage in the conference at 29%. Pay attention to the matchup on the perimeter as it could tell the story of the game.

Something to Watch For

Will Harrison Ingram be able to keep rebounding at a high rate?

Ingram is averaging about 10 rebounds per game in his last eight games, including a 19-rebound performance against NC State on January 10. The UNC basketball program has benefitted from Ingram getting rebounds at a high rate, as it has often started fast breaks and resulted in easy baskets. As Hubert Davis has said many times this season, rebounding needs to be a priority for everyone on the floor.

The UNC basketball program has struggled historically on the road at Wake Forest, with multiple matchups being very physical. The 2023-24 Tar Heels seem to thrive in those matchups but look to see if it will take a toll soon. Every game in ACC play outside of Syracuse has been a tough battle from start to finish.

Last Meeting

The UNC basketball program split the season series last year with Wake Forest, winning at home and losing on the road. Their last defeat was on February 7, 2023, and they lost 92-85.

This was a game the Tar Heels were never in, as they were down 47-25 at halftime. North Carolina did out-rebound Wake Forest by 15, but they also committed seven more turnovers. The Tar Heels shot 40% from the field, but that number is largely inflated as Wake Forest was able to pull off in the second half. Caleb Love was the team's leading scorer with 24 points, but he was outdueled by Wake Forest guard Tyree Appleby who had 35 points and made 23 of his 28 (!) free throw attempts. RJ Davis contributed with 16 points, and Armando Bacot chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Projected Starters

No. 2 Elliot Cadeau (Fr. 6-1, 180) 6.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.6 apg

No. 3 Cormac Ryan (Sr. 6-5, 195) 11.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg

No. 4 R.J. Davis (Sr. 6-0, 180) 20.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg

No. 5 Armando Bacot (Gr. 6-11, 240) 14.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.5 apg

No. 55 Harrison Ingram (Jr. 6-7, 235) 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.6 apg