|College Basketball: North Carolina at Pennsylvania Preview, Picks, Odds|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Monday, 03 December 2007 19:51|
Tar Heels Head to Penn
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made North Carolina –25.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 89% of bets for this game have been placed on North Carolina –25.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).
In the midst of a rare stretch of four consecutive road games and six straight away from Chapel Hill, North Carolina (7-0) beat Kentucky 86-77 at Rupp Arena on Saturday. The Tar Heels have been atop the AP poll since the preseason and have proven worthy of that ranking by getting off to their best start since 1998-99.
North Carolina won two neutral-site games Nov. 23 and 24 at the Las Vegas Invitational, then won at Ohio State before the trip to Lexington. The Tar Heels have a 12-day layoff for exams after the Penn game before playing at Rutgers on Dec. 16. They will have gone almost a full month between home games, from Nov. 20 to Dec. 19.
The Tar Heels are making their first trip to the Palestra since winning there twice in March 1957 en route to a national championship. The only time they played Penn at the storied arena came in 1948 and they won 52-46.
This game marks the first time the Quakers (2-6) have played a team ranked No. 1 at the Palestra, which has hosted more college basketball games than any other gym in the country.
Penn has dropped 21 in a row against ranked teams, including a 102-64 loss at then-No. 2 North Carolina last season. Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 19 points and teammate Wayne Ellington, a Philadelphia native, added 17 as the programs met for the first time since 1987.
North Carolina leads the all-time series 4-2, with three of those games coming in the NCAA tournament.
The Tar Heels' latest win away from home saw point guard Ty Lawson return after missing most of two games with an ankle injury. The sophomore had 10 points and six assists in 24 minutes against Kentucky.
"Needless to say, he is not 100 percent," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "He almost didn't play but he was going to aggravate the dickens out of me if I didn't put him in. We've got to get that ankle stronger, and we don't have a lot of time (before playing Penn)."
While Lawson's return helped the Tar Heels, reserve Danny Green sparked the victory over the Wildcats with a career-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
"I didn't make everything I took, but at one point I was in a rhythm, took some open shots and made some big plays for my team," said Green, who averages 13.3 points.
Ellington had 18 points - matching his average for the season - while Hansbrough added 14 points and 11 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
Hansbrough, averaging team highs of 20.3 points and 9.6 boards, led North Carolina to a 42-31 edge on the boards Saturday and went to the free-throw line 12 times, making 10. The preseason All-American ended the weekend leading the nation with 74 free-throw attempts.
"I've never coached a player who takes as much physical abuse as he does," Williams said of Hansbrough. "He's a bull in the china shop, and all those pieces of china like to hit back."
Penn hasn't been hitting much this season while slumping to its worst start since an eight-game losing streak to begin 2000-01.
The three-time defending Ivy League champion Quakers lost 87-61 to Villanova on Saturday, falling behind 53-22 at halftime en route to their second straight defeat. They had fallen at Lafayette 81-69 on Nov. 28.
"We didn't exactly come into this game with a lot of confidence in ourselves," Penn coach Glen Miller said. "We are trying to build that confidence and I think the kids did some good things in the second half that will help us down the line."
The Quakers lost three starters from last season to graduation and another returning starter, sophomore guard Darren Smith, for the season with a fractured kneecap on opening night. Penn started three freshmen and a sophomore against Villanova.
Senior Brian Grandieri leads the Quakers with 13.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, though freshman Tyler Bernardini has come on strong, with at least 13 points in four of Penn's last five games and 21 against Villanova.
The Quakers are allowing 81.0 points per game and are just 2-3 at home, beating only Navy and The Citadel.
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