UNC’s defense faces stiff challenge from Auburn sharpshooters

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SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – MARCH 23: Bryce Brown #2 of the Auburn Tigers reacts to a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during their game in the Second Round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 23, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WNCN) – North Carolina vs. Auburn in the Sweet 16 Friday has the makings of a shootout. These are two teams that have no problems hoisting up 3 pointers or letting the opposition shoot from long range.

The Tigers and their affinity for the 3-point shot is something that left many Tar Heels marveled and, in a way, impressed. Auburn ranks second in Division I basketball with 1,083 attempts from behind the arc.

“We were watching some of the film and they had wide-open layups and they’d kick it out for a 3,” Sterling Manley said.

“You don’t expect a team to have a wide-open layup, and then they’d pass it up for a 3,” Coby White added. “But they’re a team that does that, and they hit a lot of them, so you can’t fault them for it.”

Kansas figured that out in the last round. The Tigers went 13-for-30 from 3-point range in their 89-75 win. Bryce Brown led the way as he sunk 7-of-11 long-range attempts en route to scoring 25. The senior guard is firing at a shade over 40 percent for the season.

It’s going to make for a challenging defensive outing for UNC, which ranks 100th in the nation with opponents converting on 33 percent of their 3-point tries. Forward Luke Maye thinks it’s also going to make for a fun game. 

“I mean, they’re good. They’re good at what they do,” he said. “We’re going to try to limit them as best we can, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be a great game and we’re excited for the challenge.”

The Tar Heel sharpshooters are no slouches themselves. Cameron Johnson is hitting above a 46-percent clip from 3-point range. White was 4-for-7 behind the arc in UNC’s 81-59 win over Washington in the last round.

Rather than living and dying by the 3, UNC uses it to stretch the opposing defense. The Tar Heels rank third in the country in averaging 86.1 points per game, meaning Auburn’s defense will also have its work cut out.

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