The No. 15 Tar Heels have been busy recharging and refocusing for the stretch run that is March, full of tournament action that begins this week with the battle for the conference title.
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Sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto, who was named to All-ACC Defensive Team earlier this week, says the Tar Heels need to get back to the form they displayed in their 12-game winning streak.
“Ending out the regular season at Duke is pretty tough. No one wants to lose that game. But we did go on a 12-game winning streak before that. Leading into the ACC Tournament, we kind of look at those 12 wins and get back to what we were doing in those 12 wins and not so much in the Duke game,” Tokoto says.
Head Coach Roy Williams says he hopes his team isn’t satisfied with its recent regular season success and is instead, saving its best for last.
“Generally speaking, kids do get more enthused at tournament time. I’m pretty straightforward with them. I say, ‘Hey, we turned it around, but let’s not look back and say the highlight of our season is a three to four-week period in February,” Coach Williams says.
The offensive firepower of this year’s Carolina squad hasn’t been nearly as potent as in year’s past. Tokoto says that’s why the defensive side of things has become such a high priority.
“We don’t have as many offensive weapons as last year, but we still have guys that can put the ball in the basket when needed. Our defense has been way better than it was last year. We did lose some firepower, but I feel like we gained a lot of defensive intensity,” Tokoto says.
Tokoto says he’s hoping Carolina’s double bye into the quarterfinals will give the Tar Heels the fresher legs against a possibly fatigued opponent on Friday.
“I think it’s nice not to play as many games. Whoever we’re playing probably has played a game or two. They probably have some banged up guys or some fatigue. It will be interesting to see how that plays out,” Tokoto says.
Carolina sports a 90-42 all-time record in the ACC Tournament, but has only a 4-5 record as a No. 4 seed. UNC will be aiming to improve that record as a No. 4 seed this year and hoist up its first ACC championship trophy since 2008.