CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams already knew a lot about Miami guards Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant when he began to scout the Hurricanes on Sunday.
But as he watched video of Miami, who play North Carolina on Tuesday at the Smith Center (9 p.m.), Williams took notice of an Miami player of whom he was unfamiliar.
His size alone made Kenny Kadji stand out. The Hurricanes sophomore, a native of Cameroon who transferred to Miami after two seasons at Florida, is 6-foot-11. But there was something else, too, that caught Williams eye: Kadji can shoot with the precision of a skilled guard.
I didnt know anything about him until I started watching some tape, Williams said Monday.
When the Tar Heels (14-2, 1-0 ACC) have struggled defensively this season, they have done so against quality guards and against players capable of shooting well from the outside. Miami (9-5, 0-1), which ranks third in the ACC in 3-point shooting (38.4 percent), possesses both of those characteristics.
Scott and Grant, who ranks second in the conference in 3-pointers made per game (2.6), form one of the most experienced backcourt duos in the ACC. Theyre also among the most productive in the league.
Both players will enter the Smith Center averaging better than 13 points per game. And, as Williams said on Monday, They set the tone for everything.
Good guards and good backcourts have caused problems for UNC this season. UNLV used its guards and successful perimeter shooting to earn a 90-80 victory against then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 26 in Las Vegas.
During a Dec. 10 home victory against Long Beach State, the Tar Heels had no answer for Casper Ware, who scored 29 points and was, at times, unstoppable during the first half. Grant is capable of going on a similar hot streak for the Hurricanes, who suffered a 52-51 defeat at Virginia on Saturday.
And so, too, is Kadji, who has made 9 of his 16 3-point attempts this season. Shane Larkin, a freshman guard, had made 42.5 percent of his 3-point shots, and Trey McKinny Jones is also a capable outside shooter for Miami. Miami center Reggie Johnson is also back after missing the first nine games of the season recovering from a knee injury. Johnsons return has helped open the Hurricanes offense, first-year coach Jim Larranaga said.
The balance between having Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott handling the guard play, Reggie Johnson now manning the middle, its given a little freedom to help Kenny to step out and shoot some perimeter shots, Larranaga said. And he shoots it well. Hes getting more and more comfortable and confident.
The third-ranked Tar Heels tonight will attempt to start faster than they did in an 83-60 victory against Boston College on Saturday. UNC held a 15-14 lead in that game before beginning a 10-0 run midway through the first half.
I thought we came out a little sluggish, but I was glad we were able to concentrate down the stretch, UNC sophomore forward Harrison Barnes said. I think the biggest thing that we have right now to do is just concentrate. We cant have mental lapses in games.
Nor defensive lapses. UNCs perimeter defense has proven to be faulty at times this season, and it likely will be tested again tonight by Miami.