The Carolina basketball team is riding a nine-game winning streak, but the No.19 team in the country isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon.
One of the most surprising and welcome developments over the past couple games for the Tar Heels has been the reemergence of senior Leslie McDonald.
Sophomore forward Brice Johnson says it was only a matter of time before the shots started falling from the perimeter for McDonald.
“He’s found his touch. Coach has been telling him, ‘I need you to make some kind of three-point shot at some point.’ He’s finally found it,” Johnson says.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige says Head Coach Roy Williams has been pushing the team to maintain their focus during this winning run that has seen Carolina win its fourth game in eight days with the Wake Forest romp on Saturday.
“I think it just means we’re focused. We had to complete the streak. Coach always said, ‘It’s not special to go four games in eight days unless you win all four of them.’ That was our goal: get through this game,” Paige says.
Paige says he and his teammates aren’t concerned with the national attention they’re now getting from the outside. He says they don’t care where they’re ranked and that their primary focus is more inward – on continuing to develop as a basketball team.
“We understand that we have bigger goals and aspirations than being ranked. We’ve won a bunch of games in a row; put ourselves in position to get a bye in the ACC Tournament. Those are the kind of goals we’re looking at. What can help us improve as a team?” Paige says.
J.P. Tokoto says it’s the defense that has provided the impetus for the turnaround. He says the superior defensive pressure feeds into their offense and also allows the Tar Heels to survive any scoring lulls.
“Things might not go our way, but eventually, someone’s going to give in, and we’re not going to be that team that gives in. Coach stresses that we just got to keep toughing through things. If offensively we don’t have it, we’re always going to have it defensively. I think that’s where most of our offense comes from,” Tokoto says.
Ultimately, Paige says the guys are enjoying themselves in the locker room now. Winning can have a way of making things more fun. But Paige says the success is only making UNC even hungrier to sustain the momentum.
“It’s a happy locker room right now. I think the fact that we are winning is making us hungrier to continue that. We’ve got a little taste of continued success. We want to keep that going,” Paige says.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a Wednesday showdown against in-state rival N.C.State at 8 p.m. in Raleigh.