Tar Heels to host Davidson without James, Hairston
No. 14 North Carolina (7-3) will host Davidson (4-7) in the Smith Center today (5 p.m., ESPNU) as the Tar Heels look to bounce back from Wednesday’s 86-83 home upset loss to Texas.
Prior to the loss to Texas, Carolina had won three consecutive games including victories on the road at then-No. 1 Michigan State on Dec. 4 followed by home wins over UNC Greensboro and then-No. 11 Kentucky.
Davidson has lost back-to-back games, falling to Niagara and Drexel. The Wildcats played three Atlantic Coast Conference opponents last month, losing 111-77 to Duke, 70-57 to Virginia and 85-54 to Clemson.
After today’s game, the Tar Heel players will scatter home for the holidays before returning to campus for practice on the evening of Dec. 26, a day prior to hosting Northern Kentucky on the 27th.
The Tar Heels and Davidson have faced off 72 times over the years, with UNC winning 61, including 34 of the last 38.
From the late 1920s until the birth of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the mid-1950s, Carolina and Davidson met at least twice almost every season — from the 1928-29 season until the 1953-54 campaign. Carolina is 34-4 against Davidson in Chapel Hill, including 2-1 in the Smith Center.
The Wildcats and Tar Heels have only met seven times on the hardwood since 1954. In the first two cases, Carolina beat Davidson — in the 1968 and 1969 NCAA Tournament East Regional finals — for back-to-back berths in the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Sophomore forward Joel James will not play against Davidson. He suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee less than a minute into the loss to Texas on Dec. 18 and is expected to be out of action for 10 to 14 days.
James has started all 10 Tar Heel games this year in the post, though he was limited to less than a minute of action against Texas due to the injury. He is averaging 3.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 2013-14.
NOTES — The Tar Heels will also be without veteran wing P.J. Hairston. Hairston’s status had been in limbo since a series of summer incidents that put his eligibility in jeopardy. On Friday, UNC announced that it would not seek his reinstatement and that his UNC basketball career was over.