(Photo credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
No. 14 North Carolina hits the road for the first time this season on Wednesday when it faces Northern Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas.
The winner of the matchup between the Tar Heels (3-0) and the Panthers (1-2) will face either Texas Tech or Villanova on Thursday.
North Carolina recorded three straight double-digit victories against mid-major opponents to begin the season.
"We're going to learn a lot about us next week," Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis said. "It's an opportunity to compete against some of the better teams in the country."
UNC's latest win came against UC Riverside on Friday by a score of 77-52.
The Tar Heels started the first half with a 25-8 run, then began the second with a 19-0 spurt. Fifth-year big man Armando Bacot led UNC with 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
While Bacot had a solid night, the play of the game came during the Tar Heels' first-half run after Seth Trimble dunked on Vladimer Salaridze.
"I've been hunting (a dunk) since (the) Johnson C. Smith (exhibition) in the preseason last year," Trimble said. "The second I got that fast break, I knew I was by the rim. I just went up, and I got hit in the face, so my eyes were closed when I dunked it."
Trimble had 11 points in 15 minutes off the bench against UC Riverside. Through three games, Bacot is averaging team bests in points (22.7) and rebounds (13.3), while RJ Davis is averaging 14.3 points per game.
Northern Iowa has yet to defeat a Division I opponent this season, with the Panthers' lone win coming against Division III Loras College. Northern Iowa dropped a 74-65 decision to South Florida on Sunday, with Jacob Hutson collecting 14 points and six rebounds in the loss.
The Panthers missed five free throws and committed 11 turnovers, but the real difference in the game seemed to be their inability to knock down shots from 3-point range. Northern Iowa shot just 5-of-28 from behind the arc.
"It's something over the years that, unless I feel like there's something with their shot a little bit, I really don't talk to them about (free throws)," Panthers coach Ben Jacobson said. "They're putting in the kind of time they need to, so we'll get rolling a little bit there."
Jacobson has been the coach at Northern Iowa since 2006 and has led the Panthers to four NCAA Tournament appearances and two NIT berths in that time, a run of success that included a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2010. The Panthers finished last season with a 14-18 overall record and a 9-11 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play.
Nate Heise leads Northern Iowa in scoring this season with 14.3 points per game while Tytan Anderson averages 11.3 points. Heise, a fourth-year guard, also leads in rebounding (6.3) and assists (3.3).
--Field Level Media