December Grind: Exams, Kentucky Greeting UNC Basketball Student-Athletes
CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heels are certainly living up to the student-athlete label this week. The Carolina basketball team is juggling the rigorous demands of exams with the focused preparation needed during Kentucky week.
Saturday’s game against the No. 10 Wildcats will provide another opportunity for these up and down Tar Heels to knock off a top-ten opponent. But this time, Carolina will have the luxury of playing in the Smith Center.
Freshman Kennedy Meeks contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes during the UNC-Greensboro contest. He led the Tar Heels in rebounds for the third time in eight games. Meeks says he expects a lot out of himself.
“I always expected nothing the best out of me. I feel like I am maintaining my goals right now,” Meeks says.
The Tar Heels did their best to shake the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ label last Saturday night in their 81-50 demolition of UNC-Greensboro. Leading scorer Brice Johnson says the team was determined to come out with the necessary focus to avoid another letdown after a big win.
“It just seemed like we weren’t focused after the Louisville game probably. But we were more focused coming out for this game. We were like we can’t keep doing that. We have to play up to our standards,” Johnson says.
Assistant coach C.B. McGrath says he attributes Carolina’s inconsistency so far this season to the youth of the Tar Heels. He says it actually can be more fun to coach a bunch of young guys in practice, but not so much in the games.
“Sometimes it is more fun in terms of coaching them, but sometimes the games won’t be as much fun. Both times we won national championships; our best players were juniors and seniors. Right now, we’re playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and it has been fun,” Coach McGrath says.
Going into the Kentucky game, the Tar Heels will be looking to continue their fine defensive play. Carolina is holding opponents to 37.6 percent shooting from the floor, which ranks second in the ACC.
C.B. McGrath says he really sees the team buying in to the defense more than in years past when UNC had the ability to just outscore everybody.
“We’re doing better guarding the ball. It’s so hard to guard the basketball this day and age. You just got to try and make them change their path a little bit. […] I do think we’re making some strides. I do think that the guys have bought in to the defensive end of the court,” Coach McGrath says.