- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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No. 20 North Carolina (6-2) will take a break from fall semester exams on Saturday to host East Tennessee State at the Smith Center at 7:30 ET. The game can be viewed online at ESPN3.
A few things to watch:
UNC’s freshman point guard missed last Saturday’s win against UAB after jamming his left shoulder in practice. X-rays on Monday were negative, and he returned to full practice Wednesday without any issues. The team did not practice Thursday, but the starter practiced fully on Friday morning, a team spokesman said, and is probable to play Saturday.
If he still is limited in any way expect senior Dexter Strickland -- normally the starting shooting guard -- to get more minutes. He made his first career start at point guard in place of Paige last Saturday, and finished with 11 points, nine assists (a career-high) and four rebounds.
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams hasn’t decided on a permanent starter at center, as Desmond Hubert, Brice Johnson and Joel James have all taken turns there. But whether he opens the game or comes off the bench, Johnson sure is fun to watch. The 6-foot-9 freshman notched his third straight game in double-figure points against UAB (fifth overall this season), and is averaging 9.1 ppg -- in only 14 minutes per game.
“He has the softest touch around the rim, it’s crazy,’’ sophomore guard P.J. Hairston said. “Some shots, we think he’s going to miss, and it goes straight in. We call him ‘Easy B’ -- Easy Bucket.”
ETSU had a significant setback early in the season, when two seniors -- Marcus Dubose and Sheldon Cooley -- where arrested on drug charges and suspended indefinitely after two games (Dubose had started one, Cooley two).
The Bucs now are led by redshirt freshman Lester Wilson, a 6-foot-4 freshman who is averaging 19.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. The Bucs (2-4) were also missing their freshman point guard in their last game, a loss to James Madison, as Petey McClain sat out with an ankle injury.