Marquette travels to UNC Wednesday, looks for Quad 1 win

Former Marquette star, Bo Ellis, shoots a layup in the 1977 NCAA championship game against Norht Carolina, March 28, 1977. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Former Marquette star, Bo Ellis, shoots a layup in the 1977 NCAA championship game against Norht Carolina, March 28, 1977. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette Golden Eagles (10-12, 6-10 BIG EAST) will take on the North Carolina Tarheels (14-7, 8-5 ACC) at 6 p.m. Central Standard Time Wednesday evening in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Marquette is coming off a 26-point win in Indianapolis against the Butler Bulldogs. The Golden Eagles have lost six of their last eight games, with their only two wins coming against Butler. Redshirt junior guard Greg Elliott posted a career-high 17 points and senior forward Jamal Cain notched a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds off the bench.

North Carolina beat the Louisville Cardinals 99-54 this past Saturday in what was their biggest win of the season. The Tarheels have been outstanding at home, posting a perfect 8-0 record in Chapel Hill.

Here is what to watch for in this week’s rematch of the 1977 NCAA National Championship Game:

MARQUETTE:

Young guns stepping up on the big stage 

First-year forwards Dawson Garcia and Justin Lewis has been critical to the Golden Eagles’ game plan and they will need to bring their A-game Wednesday night against the Tarheels.

Garcia posted 12 points, two rebounds, two blocks and one assist last game after being held scoreless on Feb. 14 against the Seton Hall Pirates. He also posted a career-high 28 points on Feb. 10 against Villanova in the team’s 96-64 loss. The Prior Lake, Minnesota native has also been Marquette’s leading rebounder in his first collegiate season.

Lewis has been an essential asset off the bench for head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his coaching staff, but has not appeared in a game since Feb. 6 due to an ankle injury. It is expected that he will once again be sidelined, but if he can in fact suit up Wednesday, Marquette’s bench will be substantially deeper.

Koby McEwen’s possible return to early-season fashion

Redshirt senior guard Koby McEwen started off the season averaging 16.6 points through his first five games. In that same span, he went 26-for-52 (50%) from the field and 12-for-28 (43%) from beyond the 3-point line.

In his last five games, scoring numbers have dropped for the former Mountain West Freshman of the Year. He has averaged just 8.8 points and has gone 14-for-44 (32%) from the field and 4-for-20 (20%) from deep.

McEwen saw plenty of success prior to BIG EAST play, so look for the redshirt senior guard to potentially break out of his late-season slump in the team’s first nonconference game since Dec. 11.

NORTH CAROLINA:

Defensive intensity 

The Tarheels are averaging 42.9 rebounds per game, which ranks first in the ACC. They also rank sixth in the conference in blocks per game (4.1) and seventh in steals per game (7.1).

North Carolina will have to play a stifling brand of defense to make up for their lackluster offense. Among the 15 ACC teams, UNC ranks eighth in field goal percentage (44%), 13th in 3-point percentage (32%) and last in free throw percentage (65%).

Day’Ron Sharpe will serve as the anchor down low for the Tarheels. The 6-foot-11 first-year forward/center is averaging a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game. He is also one of four players scoring  in double figures at 10.3 points per game.

Balance, balance, balance 

North Carolina has proven to be one of the most balanced teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They rank second in the ACC in assists per game with 15.8, just two tenths of an assist behind top-ranked Georgia Tech.

Sophomore forward/center Armando Bacot, first-year guard Caleb Love, senior forward Garrison Brooks and Sharpe all have scoring averages in double figures. Love also has a team-high 75 assists on the season.

UNC has not had at least four scorers in double figures since the 2017-18 season, so this team is one of the more balanced groups head coach Roy Williams has had in the past couple of years.

TEAM LEADERS:

MU: 

  • Points: Dawson Garcia/D.J. Carton (12.6)
  • Rebounds: Dawson Garcia (6.5)
  • Assists: D.J. Carton (3.3)

UNC: 

  • Points: Armando Bacot (11.9)
  • Rebounds: Day’Ron Sharpe (7.9)
  • Assists: Caleb Love (3.6)

The last time these two teams saw each other was on March 25, 2011 in the Sweet 16. North Carolina took home an 81-63 win in Newark, New Jersey. Tyler Zeller had 27 points and 12 rebounds and Harrison Barnes posted 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocks for the Tarheels. For MU, Davante Gardner had 16 points, Jimmy Butler had 14 points and Jae Crowder tallied 11 points off the bench.

Marquette will look for back-to-back wins and North Carolina will look for their third-straight victory as they try to maintain their pristine record at the Dean E. Smith Center. The game will be telecasted on ESPN2.

This story was written by Nick Galle. He can be reached at nicholas.galle@marquette.edu or on Twitter @thenickgalle.