The Davidson and North Carolina men’s basketball teams will stretch the definition of a “neutral” court when they play Saturday at 2 p.m. at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.
A year removed from a 97-85 overtime loss to the Tar Heels at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, Davidson will get another shot at No. 6-ranked North Carolina – this time, just 23 miles south of where the Wildcats play their home games.
You might be surprised just whom the Wildcats have to thank for the opportunity.
“I’m doing (this) because Michael (Jordan) wanted me to come play a game there and that’s the bottom line,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said, just after reiterating he’s never won, or lost, a game because of the building.
Jordan is a UNC alumnus and owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, who call Time Warner Cable Arena home.
Davidson (2-0) and North Carolina (2-0) enter Saturday’s game coming off convincing wins: The Tar Heels dispatched Robert Morris 103-59 on Sunday, and the Wildcats handled Campbell 86-51 on Tuesday.
Saturday’s game will also be a homecoming for former West Charlotte High star Kennedy Meeks.
Meeks, a 6-foot-9, 270-pound sophomore center who has dropped 50 pounds since enrolling in school last year, had 21 points and 12 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ win against Robert Morris. He’s averaging 15.5 points and a team-best 10.5 rebounds.
While North Carolina has dominated games down low, it’s the outside shooting of Davidson, gearing up for its first season in the Atlantic 10, that has impressed Williams.
“They’re 25 for 50 (on 3-point shots), not 25 for 300,” Williams said. “That’s something we talk about a lot. You don’t just want shooters, you want makers and we’re going to face some teams like that.”
On the other hand, North Carolina has attempted 26 3-pointers and made six this season.
“That’s a unique challenge,” said Williams, who said he probably wouldn’t double-team any of the Wildcats to prevent uncontested outside shots.
That could bode well for Davidson junior Jake Belford, who had a career-high 20 points on 9-of-12 shooting in the Wildcats’ win against Campbell.
“I don’t know if we have a better player with his back to the basket, who also can face up and shoot,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said after the win against Campbell. “He has a crafty approach to it.”
Davidson junior guard Brian Sullivan scored 33 points in the overtime loss against UNC last December in a performance coach Williams hasn’t forgotten.
“The Sullivan kid had 33 and he’s – I hate to even tell you – 3-for-19 (from the floor this season),” Williams said. “So when he sees that Carolina blue color, he gets a little fired up.”
With tickets still available as of Friday night, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of effect the crowd will have.
“It’s a big game,” McKillop said. “I just hope our fans come (to Charlotte) and realize these are some pretty good guys to cheer for.”
Davidson is 1-4 all-time at TWC Arena, with its lone win against N.C. State on Dec. 6, 2008. … Through the first two games, Davidson is shooting 53.5 percent overall and 50 percent (25-50) from long range, averaging 12.5 3-pointers per game. … The Wildcats are 14-88 all-time when playing a ranked opponent (AP poll) and have lost 17 of their past 18. … UNC guard Marcus Paige scored 11 of his 17 points in overtime of last year’s Tar Heels win over Davidson. He was held scoreless in the first half and opened the game 0-for-6 from the floor. … The Tar Heels and Wildcats have played 73 times , with UNC winning 62 (including the past five).