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Tar Heels no slouches on boards

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Photographs by Associated Press

North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks (3) grabs a rebound against Texas Southern's Stephan Bennett (15) during the second half in a first-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Friday, March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- North Carolina Coach Roy Williams, who has won 810 games with the Tar Heels and Kansas, said the key has been rebounding.

"Me personally, for 29 years, I've really thought that was the single most important factor in who wins the games," Williams said. "So I've emphasized it forever."

The Tar Heels lead the nation in rebounding margin at plus-13.1 going into their second-round NCAA Tournament game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at 5:10 p.m. today at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

It's an ominous stat for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, which advanced Friday by beating Seton Hall 77-71, but was outrebounded 46-32, including 21-8 on the offensive end.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us, especially after giving up 21 offensive rebounds to Seton Hall," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. "We know we can't let that occur with North Carolina. If so, it'll be over quick."

In the No. 1-seeded Tar Heels' 103-64 victory over Texas Southern on Friday, they outrebounded the Tigers 54-27.

"That's our main goal every game that we go into it," said 6-10 North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks. "We want to win the rebound margin.

'I think that's what leads to wins. That definitely gives you another opportunity at getting shots. So that's our main objective from the big men, especially.

"We try to use our size to our advantage and fight around the box-outs."

Anderson said the Tar Heels' rebounding prowess shouldn't come as a surprise.

"Have you seen all those guys they've got?" Anderson said. "They've got eight, nine pros.

"You've got pros, they can go get it. And they've got size and they've got girth. They've got experienced guys."

Kennedy, a junior, is one of four North Carolina starters 6-6 or taller along with 6-9 senior Isaiah Hicks, 6-8 junior Justin Jackson and 6-6 junior Theo Pinson.

Arkansas' starters include 6-10 senior Moses Kingsley and 6-8 junior Dustin Thomas along with 6-9 junior Trey Thompson and 6-8 junior Arlando Cook off the bench.

"We've got to do a better job rebounding than we did the last game," said Kingsley, averaging 7.8 rebounds. "We have to do it collectively.

"We have to do it as a team -- the guards, the bigs, too, everybody."

North Carolina (28-7) has been outrebounded four times this season in losses to Indiana, Kentucky, Miami and Duke.

Kennedy is averaging 9.0 rebounds. No other Tar Heel is averaging more than 5.7 rebounds, but eight players are averaging at least 3.3.

Brice Johnson averaged 10.4 rebounds to lead North Carolina as a senior last season when he earned first-team All-American honors.

"We lost Brice, so from the first day of practice we emphasized that we've got to do a great job and rebound the basketball as a team," Williams said. "We don't have a natural guy that just goes and the ball finds his hands all the time, like it did with Brice."

Senior Manny Watkins, a 6-3 guard, is the Razorbacks' second-leading rebounder at 3.9 per game.

"We've got to box out, hit people and help our bigs rebound," Watlkins said. "The guards have got to rebound really well in this game."

Arkansas has a minus-0.3 rebounding margin on the season.

"It's going to be the ultimate challenge for our team because that's something we haven't done consistently," Anderson said of the Razorbacks rebounding. "We haven't done as well as I like us to to do.

"We're not going to be a great [rebounding] team, but we've got keep people off the glass."

Sports on 03/19/2017

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