USF (5-0) at No. 7 UNC (6-0)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Carmichael Auditorium
The story: The women’s basketball team travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., tonight to face No. 7 North Carolina, the first of three straight games against top-25 teams. The Tar Heels are on a six-game winning streak after beating Charleston Southern 92-38 on Thursday.
The Tar Heels are led by junior guard Ivory Latta, who averages 19.4 points and 6.4 assists per game – both team highs. Latta is also a preseason candidate for the Wooden Award, which goes to the nation’s top player.
Working in USF’s favor is the fact that this will be UNC’s fifth game in eight days, and the Bulls are well rested coming off their fifth straight win.
“We’re off to a great start,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “But we have one of the toughest stretches of our schedule coming up.”
Adding to USF’s tough schedule is the absence of two starters – guards Rachel Sheats and Tristen Webb – because of injuries. Fernandez has had to rely on two freshmen guards -Jessica Jackson and Shantia Grace – and the bench players on a team that only has eight players on scholarship.
“We just need to get creative with our substitution patterns and game management,” Fernandez said. “Everything is about opportunity, and right now, our opportunity is against three top-25 teams.”While this is the Bulls’ fifth 5-0 start, UNC has started 5-0 for the past three seasons. This is the first meeting between the two teams.
Keep an eye on: Jessica Dickson. The junior forward has moved to guard due to the injuries of Webb and Sheats, and since the switch, Dickson has had games of 33 and 32 points and was even named Big East Conference Player of the Week on Monday. Dickson is leading the Big East in scoring with 25.4 points per game and is third on the team with 7.4 rebounds per game. Even Fernandez is surprised with the offensive production of his star junior.
“I am most impressed with her offensively. Her percentages are great,” Fernandez said. “The toughest part about the whole thing is that she is playing about 34 minutes a game.”
Dickson is shooting 49.5 percent from the field, including 44.4 percent from 3-point range.