Last season, all eyes were on North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller during the Evansville game because it was his “home” game -- the nearest the Tar Heels could play to his Washington, Ind., hometown.
Tonight, fans will likely be keeping an eye on him to see if he can shake off his inconsistent start.
Zeller, a senior, has made only 12 of 32 shots in his last four games. And that doesn’t include the shot-that-could-have-been in the final minute of Saturday’s loss at Kentucky, when he lost control of the ball in the lane (teammate John Henson ended up trying to shoot a game-winner, but his shot was blocked).
The 7-footer has a couple more incentives, too, to have a big night: He needs only 13 points to record 1,000 for his career. And he probably wouldn’t mind one-upping his little brother Cody, who recorded 14 points and nine rebounds in Indiana’s 94-73 victory over the Purple Aces on Nov. 16.
A few other things to watch:
North Carolina, despite a starting front line of 7-feet, 6-11 and 6-8, has been out-rebounded in half of its eight games this season.
It really shouldn’t have a problem with the Purple Aces, as their rebounding margin is minus-6.8 per game. But look for it to be an emphasis.
UNC coach Roy Williams said during his Monday radio show that he’d like to get freshmen Stilman White and Desmond Hubert some more minutes – and he should have the opportunity, what with the Tar Heels’ next nine games at home.
It will also be interesting to see if, and how, he works freshman reserve P.J. Hairston into the rotation more. Hairston scored 11 points in 14 minutes against Kentucky, making 3 of his 4 3-pointers. He’s UNC’s fourth-leading scorer at 8.6 ppg, and would almost certainly increase that output with an increase in playing time.
ACES JUNIOR RYAN COLT
The 6-5 wing is Evansville’s best player, averaging 19.7 points and making 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers. He scored 31 points, and made 14 of his 16 free throws, in the Aces’ 70-68 overtime loss to TCU.
Robbi Pickeral can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @bylinerp.