Setbacks like Sunday’s loss at Wake Forest are surely frustrating for the Tar Heels, but for the most part you can’t blame their defense.
UNC has been mostly stellar on that end of the court, holding opponents to just 38.5 percent shooting.
That was not the case vs. the Deacs, who knocked down 48.1 percent of their shots for the home court upset. The Heels did hold Wake Forest to a 2-of-12 effort from behind the arc, however.
The Tar Heels’ own shooting woes, an abysmal 2 of 15 from three-point range in particular, were the biggest reason for their undoing in a disappointing loss after three straight wins and six of seven.
Coach Roy Williams liked his team’s effort in practice Monday in preparation for Wednesday’s game vs. Miami, as the Heels look to level their ACC mark at 1-1.
The Heels should get a big boost on both ends of the court with the return of Joel James, who suffered a sprained MCL in the loss to Texas. For the first time all season, the team will just about boast a “complete” lineup as Leslie McDonald settles into the rotation and the program moves on post-P.J. Hairston.
“We made the decision to hold him out for a certain number of days and see how he felt,” Williams said of James Monday night on his radio show. “Friday’s practice was the decision maker [for the Wake game], because we asked him to do a little more and he was sore afterwards. We put his name in the scorebook in case of emergency. But he was full go at practice [Monday] with no limitations. He will be able to play.”
James should also help to provide key defensive stops, as Tar Heels opponents shoot nearly 40 percent with him out of the lineup vs. a sub-38 percent mark with the center clogging up the middle. He averaged over four rebounds in just over 12 minutes per game and collected five or more boards in five straight contests before the injury.
Along with James’ return, more consistently energetic and efficient play from the entire squad won’t hurt, and the coach liked what he saw at Monday’s practice in that regard.
“It was the most physical practice we’ve had for an hour all year long,” Williams said. “They were beating each other up. We’ve got to be more forceful around the basket and finish plays.”
Whatever the reason for the team’s inconsistent performances this season, Williams is confident things will improve as the Heels gel together and gain experience.
“An older team knows how to handle it and has a trust factor with each other and the staff,” Williams said in Monday’s teleconference. “They understand there are just a couple of things they have to change. A young team questions everything. They’re questioning their own commitment, they’re questioning if their shot is working, is the defense working, are we eating the right things for the pregame meal…”