CHAPEL HILL– The No. 14 North Carolina Tar Heels, 7-3 on the season, will look to rebound from their disappointing loss to Texas when they face the 4-7 Davidson Wildcats at 5 p.m. Saturday in Chapel Hill.
***Listen to the story***
The Tar Heels found out P.J. Hairston’s playing days at UNC were over on Friday, but those that will be playing have serious issues to deal with on the court.
Carolina missed 23 free throws in the ugly defeat at the hands of the Longhorns Wednesday. Overall, UNC has missed 128 of 317 free throw attempts this season. The Tar Heels are missing 12.8 free throws a game, more than any other school in the country.
Head Coach Roy Williams says he was disgusted with the inability of his players to knock down their foul shots, and he even suggested they may need to try another sport.
“I thought it was just ridiculous in the first half. Second half, we tried harder. You got to be tough enough to step up and make shots. I’m tired of talking about free throws. You got to be tough enough to step up and make the daggum thing or go play soccer,” Coach Williams says.
Carolina conducted a special 5 a.m. practice Thursday morning where quite a bit of conditioning was involved. And they were back at it later that same afternoon with more practice.
Coach Williams’ disappointment doesn’t stop at the foul line, though. He laments the way Carolina was completely dismantled in the paint, and knows the rebounding must improve to garner victory against the Wildcats.
“Do you want to go get the basketball or do you want to stand there and let somebody else? At halftime did you look at the stats? Who was our leading rebounder? Marcus [Paige] had one rebound,” Coach Williams says.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige says as the leader of the team, he feels entitled to bring more energy to the floor. But he says he needs to see more effort from the rest of his teammates or the losses will keep coming.
“I’m the leader of this team. I try to push certain buttons on guys to get them to play harder. But that’s really something that you just have to decide to do yourself. If you want to make an impact, you got to play hard. Some guys are a little slow to get that to click. That’s what gets you beat,” Paige says.
Fifth-year senior Leslie McDonald returned to the floor to post 14 points Wednesday for the Tar Heels after sitting out the first nine games due to NCAA infractions. McDonald says he really appreciated the warm welcome from the Dean Dome crowd.
“It felt good. My hat goes out to the people that supported me – the fans, my family and everyone behind me. It’s truly an honor to be out there and play in front of those fans,” McDonald says.
Davidson Coach Bob McKillop says he is hoping Santa will deliver an early Christmas gift to his team in the form of an upset, but Carolina will no doubt be focused to clean up its act to improve Tar Heel spirits before the holiday.