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Gallen Pours Out Some More Boshamer Magic: Shuts Out BC

Zac Gallen did it again.

For the second time in his last three starts, Gallen tossed a complete game, and this time it was of the shutout variety, as the sophomore carried the No. 23 UNC baseball team to a 1-0 victory over the Boston College Eagles at Boshamer Stadium on Friday night.

UNC picks up its fourth consecutive victory, improving to 27-15 overall and 11-10 in the ACC, while ending the Eagles’ five game win streak. For the season, Boston College is 22-19, with a 9-12 record inside the conference.

Mike King matched Zac Gallen pitch for pitch all night long. (bcinterruption.com)

Mike King matched Zac Gallen pitch for pitch all night long. (bcinterruption.com)

Coming into the game, it was expected to be a fantastic pitcher’s duel between Gallen (3-3) and Boston College sophomore Mike King (1-3)–and neither of these guys decided to stray from the script.

Gallen threw a complete game in his last home start two weeks ago against NC State, while King came into Friday’s contest having thrown a complete game, one-hit, shutout last week against Georgia Tech. So it was no surprise to fans that each man came out strong.

“[Gallen’s] a strike thrower, so that always helps. So was King for them tonight. We thought it would be a quick game,” says UNC head coach Mike Fox, “Both pitchers throwing a lot of strikes and getting a lot of first pitch outs.”

The first nine batters of the game were each unsuccessful in their attempts to reach base, and through five innings the teams had combined for just four hits, as offense was tougher to find than the Lochness Monster in this one.

Carolina right-fielder Tyler Ramirez recorded the first hit of the game with a hard hit single off of King to lead-off the bottom of the second. After a walk to Joe Dudek and an infield single by Eli Sutherland, suddenly the Tar Heels found themselves in business–with the bases loaded and just one out.

In the next at-bat, King got freshman Zack Gahagan to strike out swinging, but followed that up by walking shortstop Logan Warmoth on four straight pitches to bring home Ramirez before he could escape the jam, giving the Tar Heels the first, and only, run of the game.

Meanwhile Zac Gallen’s home dominance continued, as he made quick work of the Eagle hitters all night long, finishing the game with just 115 pitches. In total, Gallen struck out eight Eagles, while amazingly only giving up three hits the entire game.

Tyler Ramirez accounted for the game's only run, scoring on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the second. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

Tyler Ramirez accounted for the game’s only run, scoring on a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the second. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

“I wish we could play at home every game,” Gallen says, “It’s just a comfortability thing. Like they say, it’s tough to go on the road in the ACC. Your fans usually aren’t there, it’s gonna be majority their fans, and the mound’s a little bit different.”

“It’s good to come home.”

In fact, no runner even reached second base against UNC’s right-handed sophomore until the top of the sixth.

Designated hitter Scott Braren singled to begin the frame, and moved over on a sacrifice. Braren then got to third on a wild pitch, but was thrown out at home by Logan Warmoth trying to come home on a ground-ball hit by Jake Palomaki that never left the infield.

After that, Gallen locked down the shop–working perfect seventh and eighth innings, as his offense continued to struggle against Mike King, who worked all eight innings for the Eagles–meaning neither bullpen was needed at all in this game.

For the game, King allowed just five hits in his eight innings, striking out five Tar Heels as well.

“I was so glad Zac made it to the end, I know he was getting a little bit tired. His pitch count was still down, but he walked those two in the ninth and [we’re] thinking ‘Oh boy, we gotta try to let him finish’, so that was a nail-biter,” says Coach Fox.

When Gallen came back out to pitch the ninth, the New Jersey native was greeted by a chorus of cheers.

But then a one-out walk to Palomaki was followed by a base-hit from second baseman Blake Butera, causing some anxiety. After the second out, Michael Strem drew the second walk in the inning off Gallen to load the bases, bringing the home fans to their feet again.

This is just how close the play at home plate was in the top of the sixth with Logan Warmoth's throw barely making it home in time. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

This is just how close the play at home plate was in the top of the sixth with Logan Warmoth’s throw barely making it home in time. (Photo Courtesy of Smith Hardy)

A diving stop at first base by Joe Dudek on the next play, a hard hit liner by Donovan Casey, preserved the shut-out and the victory, on what looked like it could have been a two-run base-hit, sending the Tar Heel faithful home happy.

To his credit, Gallen couldn’t help but give all the credit to his defense, which saw center-fielder Skye Bolt make an incredible diving catch in the fifth to go along with Warmoth’s throw home in the sixth–and of course the one that sealed it, Dudek’s game-saving stop.

“Once Skye [Bolt] made the catch, I thought I was in a video game. I was like ‘OK, that’s gonna be on SportsCenter, that should be Vine famous’,” Gallen says.

“And then Logan [Warmoth] makes that play, and then Joe [Dudek] makes that play and it’s like ‘Dude I owe you lunch for the rest of your life.”

Up Next:

Saturday’s second game of the series was originally scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., but due to persistent rain in the forecast first pitch has been moved up to 10:30 a.m. The pitching match-up in that one will pit UNC freshman JB Bukauskas (3-1, 3.88 ERA) against Boston College senior John Gorman (4-2, 5.13 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • When Joe Dudek drew the first Carolina walk off Mike King in the bottom of the second, it was the first walk issued by Boston College in its last four games.
  • This was Zac Gallen’s ninth start of the season, and fourth at Boshamer Stadium. In those four home starts, Gallen has allowed just one earned run in 31 innings pitched.
  • Coach Mike Fox is now 12-0 at home against Boston College
http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gallen-pours-out-some-more-boshamer-magic-shuts-out-bc/

Gallen’s Fridays Key For Diamond Heels

When the No. 23 UNC baseball team opens its three-game ACC series with the Boston College Eagles Friday night at Boshamer Stadium, Zac Gallen will be returning to the mound on which he delivered the two finest performances of his young pitching career against his team’s two biggest rivals.

For the majority of the season, the sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey has spear-headed the dominant UNC weekend rotation, helping the team reach its current 26-15 overall record and 10-10 conference mark.

Boston College comes into Chapel Hill this weekend not far behind the Tar Heels in the tight conference standings–at 9-11 in the ACC and 22-18 against all competition—which is why Gallen (2-3, 3.31 ERA) knows it’s important to get his team off to a good start by pitching well in the Friday series opener.

In the first ACC game of the year, Gallen struck out 12 Duke hitters while picking up the win. (UNC Athletics)

“It’s huge. I mean, when you lose that Friday [game] it’s like ‘man, [our] backs are against the wall’,” Gallen says, “So it’s good to put the pressure on early…especially with the position we’re in, in the ACC, we’re right in the thick of things.”

“Every game we play on Friday is a battle,” he adds.

A part of the starting rotation for 17 games in 2014 as a freshman, you would think penciling his name in this year as part of a competition among pitchers fighting for a starting role would have been just a formality, but with the addition of hard throwing freshmen JB Bukauskas and Hunter Williams, head coach Mike Fox decided to try something else early on in the year.

“Zac’s a good example,” says Coach Fox, “We started the season, and he wasn’t one of our weekend guys—he was all last year as a freshman. He didn’t pout. He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t pout and he pitched great out of the bullpen…and then for one reason or another we’re having to [start] him in our first ACC game.”

After making two appearances in relief against Seton Hall and UCLA, Gallen got his first start of the year in the season’s third week against Rhode Island due to the loss of closer Reilly Hovis–an injury that forced Coach Fox to shuffle junior Trent Thornton from the weekend rotation into his current bullpen role.

In that game, Gallen went six innings and struck out a then career-high nine hitters, despite being credited with the loss.

The stage was set then, for the sophomore to get a chance to pitch in the team’s aforementioned ACC opener against its cross-town rival, the Duke Blue Devils.

He did not disappoint either, this time earning a win, while going seven innings and picking up yet another career-high in strikeouts with 12—a number that has yet to be matched by any other Tar Heel this season, prompting Coach Fox to issue a strong statement afterwards.

Great pitch control is what sets Gallen apart from his peers in the Tar Heel dugout. (UNC Athletics)

Great pitch control is what sets Gallen apart from his peers in the Tar Heel dugout. (UNC Athletics)

“I’m hoping all the other pitchers just take a look at that,” Fox said about Gallen’s situation after he mowed down the Duke lineup, “Be prepared.”

The main difference between this year’s Zac Gallen and last year’s Zac Gallen, according to the man himself, is a shiny new toy he installed in his repertoire during the off-season.

“I picked up a cutter this summer. I just happened to be [playing] catch with a buddy and just kinda picked it up. I just felt a good angle on my ball,” Gallen says, adding that “I feel good staying in the lower half of the [strike] zone, which is helping out a lot.”

When he’s out on the mound pitching, Gallen gives off an aura of confidence without needing to say anything at all.

His one, singular, focus is on throwing strikes–something that never wavered throughout the tough times he faced, says junior Korey Dunbar, who has been the catcher behind the plate in each of Gallen’s starts.

“I think with him moving to the bullpen at the start the season, he kinda came out [in the starting rotation] with a chip on his shoulder. It’s shown and he’s done a really good job,” says Dunbar.

“He’s the type of guy that’s not gonna show a lot of emotion on the mound, he’s just in command of everything. That’s his huge thing is command.”

Keeping his fastball-cutter combination in the strike zone has been the key to success for Gallen since the year began.

To illustrate the type of control Gallen exhibits, the New Jersey native has started 25 games for Coach Fox since arriving in Chapel Hill, and has never walked more than three batters in a game.

Now think about this–UNC drew five walks in the first inning against Virginia Tech starter Jon Woodcock last Saturday, and drew another four against Campbell starter Heath Bowers in Tuesday’s first inning.

“He’s a strike thrower,” says Coach Fox on Gallen’s control, “He gets us into the sixth and seventh inning, which is what you want on Fridays. I think he’s pitched well. He’s really only had one bad outing.”

Against Pittsburgh on the road in early March, Gallen set career highs in walks (three) and runs allowed (eight), while only making it through 3.2 innings.

To this day, it remains Gallen’s only start of the season to not last five innings or longer.

Gallen's teammates congratulate him after his complete game vs. NC State. (UNC Athletics)

Gallen’s teammates congratulate him after his complete game vs. NC State. (UNC Athletics)

But a month later, in another rivalry start, against NC State in front of a sell-out home crowd and a national television audience, he provided yet another stroke of magic—going all nine innings to preserve a 2-1 Tar Heel victory, in a game that went right down to the wire.

Coach Fox couldn’t help but crack a smile after that game–one which the official team Twitter account declared “Gallentine’s Day“.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that we had him pitching in relief the first [two] weekends of the season. He wasn’t even one of our first three starters,” Fox said with a chuckle, “We laugh about that now.”

Despite picking up a loss last weekend at Virginia Tech, Gallen was solid for the first five innings, allowing just one run during that time, before eventually giving up four in the sixth to earn his spot on the bench.

As the season progresses into its final stages, and more importantly tournament time, Coach Fox will need his starting rotation to continue carrying the bulk of the load in order to have a chance to make a serious run at his seventh College World Series appearance.

And of course, as the Friday man, that all begins with Zac Gallen.

Boston College has won five games in a row and will present the UNC right-hander with a stiff test in the series opener. The Eagles will likely send 6’3” sophomore Mike King to the mound to face-off with Gallen—which should make for an interesting match-up, as King threw a complete game of his own last Friday against No. 24 Georgia Tech, shutting the Yellow Jackets out en route to tossing a one-hitter.

First pitch for Friday’s pitching showdown at Boshamer Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m., with all three games in the series set to be shown on ESPN3 and broadcast live on 97.9 FM, WCHL.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/gallen-fridays-key-diamond-heels-stretch/

Tar Heels Soar Past Eagles In ACC Tourney

When Marcus Paige gets involved early, it’s usually a welcome sign for the Tar Heels.

The junior guard did just that Wednesday afternoon at the Greensboro Coliseum, leading the No. 5 seed North Carolina men’s basketball team to an 81-63 victory over No. 12 seed Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

***Listen to the story***

With the win, the Tar Heels improved to 22-10 overall and 12-7 in ACC play, while the Eagles dropped to 13-19 on the season.

Justin Jackson played well for the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson played well for the Tar Heels (Todd Melet)

UNC junior forward J.P. Tokoto, the defensive ‘riverboat gambler’ for the Tar Heels according to head coach Roy Williams, saw his gamble pay off against the ACC’s leading scorer, Olivier Hanlan.

“He’s big time, a big-time player, and our goal was to try to make sure he didn’t shoot a great percentage,” Coach Williams says.

In the first half, Hanlan struggled to gain much traction against the long arms and standout athleticism of Tokoto. Hanlan missed 12 of his first 14 shots.

Leading the scoring charge for Carolina was the aforementioned Paige and junior forward Brice Johnson, who both tallied 17 points. As a team, the Tar Heels shot a productive 49 percent from the floor and knocked down 75 percent of their free throws.

Marcus Paige for three! (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige for three! (Todd Melet)

Paige had more bounce to his step, saying after the game he was getting close to proclaiming himself fully fit. It’s the perfect time of the year to be getting your feet back.

“Coach (Roy Williams) didn’t talk about it a lot but I brought it up today as we coming to the gym, that we lost the first day we played last year,” Paige says. “That it was bad and we went straight back home. I was telling the guys, `You don’t want that feeling.”

The Eagles were led by 20 points from Aaron Brown, a graduate student who transferred from Southern Miss.

UNC took a 43-30 advantage into the halftime locker room and never looked back from there to race away from the offensively-challenged Boston College squad.

Brice Johnson played heavily in the UNC offense (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson played heavily in the UNC offense (Todd Melet)

It wasn’t just the scoreboard that favored UNC either. The boards were dominated by the Tar Heels as well. They boasted a 43-25 rebounding edge.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a quarterfinal date with the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals. If the two previous encounters in 2015 tell us anything, it’s to expect another hotly-contested battle Thursday afternoon.

Roy Williams says he remains doubtful sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks will play. Meeks has been battling a high fever all week and has not practiced.

FINAL BOX SCORE

PHOTO GALLERY

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-soar-past-eagles-in-acc-tourney/

Roy Williams Bringing Four Suits To Greensboro

The Tar Heels have been coming up short against the league’s best teams down the stretch of the regular season. They’ll get another crack at the ACC’s upper crust this week in Greensboro. That is, if No. 19 North Carolina can first get past Boston College Wednesday afternoon.

***Listen to the story***

UNC head coach Roy Williams says he’s packing four suits for the ACC Tournament.

“It’s a new season now. We get to go over there and see if we can play our tails off for four days. If we do, we got a chance to win the whole thing. When we play really well, we got a chance to win the whole thing. That’s our goal – to try to play really well,” Coach Williams says.

Kennedy Meeks has been under the weather in recent days and is doubtful for action Wednesday (Todd Melet)

Kennedy Meeks has been under the weather in recent days and is doubtful for action Wednesday (Todd Melet)

Carolina, 21-10 overall and 11-7 in the ACC, will enter the conference postseason as the No. 5 seed for the fifth time in history and just the second time since 1964. With that No. 5 beside its name in the bracket, the Tar Heels haven’t fared so well, owning a 1-4 record in that slot.

What’s more, UNC will likely need to try and survive the second round contest without the services of sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks, who’s been battling a high fever this week.

But teammate Brice Johnson says the show must go on.

“We’ve had situations like this before. Somebody’s got to step up. We have a great number of post players on this team. Nobody’s guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. He [Coach] can either change the lineup or Kennedy can still play,” Johnson says.

Roy Williams (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams (Todd Melet)

The opponent for Wednesday’s 2 p.m. tipoff in the Greensboro Coliseum will be the surging Boston College Eagles, who downed Georgia Tech in thrilling fashion, 66-65, in the first round.

BC head coach Jim Christian says he’s proud of his veteran players, who’ve now quietly led the Eagles to four straight ACC victories.

“The resiliency of our team the last three weeks is what I’m really proud of. I’ve said before, especially the seniors, they’re helping me change the culture of this program day-by-day. They just continue to compete, fight and stay together,” Coach Christian says.

UNC clipped BC, 79-68, in Chestnut Hill Feb. 7. The game was certainly competitive, but for UNC, the expectations are higher than a second round win against a bottom-tier team.

On that note, Coach Williams reflects on a difficult past few seasons for the Tar Heels.

Brice Johnson will need to bring his best to Greensboro (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson will need to bring his best to Greensboro (Todd Melet)

“This league is pretty tough. Even the last three years when I’ve been frustrated, we’ve been third, third and fifth. It is fifteen teams. It’s not like eight teams like in the old days. If you would have told me fifth with eight teams, I wouldn’t have been pleased at all. We’ve won some big games. We’ve played great on some nights and played poorly on others,” Coach Williams says.

Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory knows all about frustration. He likely surrendered his final game at the helm of the Ramblin’ Wreck when BC junior guard Olivier Hanlan’s game-winning shot found the nets Tuesday afternoon.

Olivier Hanlan (Canballreport.com)

Olivier Hanlan (Canballreport.com)

Hanlan, an All-ACC first team selection, tallied 25 points against the Yellow Jackets and says he’s looking forward to facing off with Carolina.

“I take the ACC Tournament like a new season. Everybody is on the same level as far as everybody being zero-zero. Definitely, playing against UNC and UNC being so close to here, it will definitely feel like a road game, but definitely feel like a pretty good ACC Tournament game,” Hanlan says.

Postseason play does wipe the slate clean. Everybody has a new lease on life. Hopes are high. And for Carolina’s Johnson, those hopes include the hanging of a banner.

“We were that close to getting a ring my freshman year. I feel like this team is a lot better. We have to be able to go out there and be prepared to play anybody. We want to be able to hang a banner in the Smith Center,” Johnson says.

The winner of Wednesday’s game will move on to face No. 4 seed Louisville on quarterfinal Thursday and more importantly, keep dreams of an ACC title alive.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/roy-williams-bringing-four-suits-to-greensboro/

UNC Baseball Game Against Winthrop Canceled

The 4-2, 11th ranked , UNC baseball team’s home game against the 3-3 Winthrop Eagles has been canceled. Winter weather conditions forced the cancellation of Tuesday’s match-up with St. John’s.

There will be no rescheduling of the St. John’s game. This is five consecutive home games to be altered due to winter weather.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-baseball-still-scheduled-to-face-winthrop-despite-st-johns-cancellation/

UNC Gets Back On Track, Downs BC

The No. 12 North Carolina men’s basketball team scraped by Boston College Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill to take a 79-68 win and improve to 18-6 on the season and 8-3 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Eagles dropped to 9-13 overall and 1-9 in league action.

UNC forward Isaiah Hicks tallied a career-high 21 points on 7-10 shooting to lead the scoring charge. Tar Heel junior Brice Johnson added in 20 points and nine rebounds.

“Isaiah, needless to say, gave us a huge game,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says. “It was a contrast of two teams. Our strength is getting the ball inside and theirs is Hanlan driving to the basket.”

As for the Eagles, Olivier Hanlan totaled a whopping 30 points to lead all scorers, but it wasn’t enough to top a focused UNC squad.

UNC came out of the gates sluggishly, lagging behind Boston College in the early going. The Tar Heels struggled to get things going on the offensive end while the Eagles knocked down a few timely jumpers to stick their nose in front.

With 7:51 to play in the opening half, Boston College held a 22-17 advantage with 7:51 on the clock.

From there, Carolina started to get in the flow and worked the ball in the paint for some slid finishes. At intermission, it was a tie ballgame. The Tar Heels and Eagles were locked up at 36 points apiece.

Coach Williams must have given the Tar Heels their track shoes in the halftime locker room. UNC played at the warp-speed pace it likes and ran away from BC in the closing 20 minutes of play.

Johnson, Paige and Hicks stepped up and impressed. The Tar Heels’ purposeful attack proved too much for the Eagles in the end. The 10-point lead with 8:15 to play held strong down the stretch.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes another road trip to Atlanta to take on the ever-improving Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets next Saturday.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-gets-back-track-downs-bc/

Back To The Drawing Board For UNC At Boston College

The No. 12 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 17-6 overall and 7-3 in the ACC, will look to put an end its two-game losing slide Saturday afternoon in Chestnut Hill when it takes on the struggling Boston College Eagles, sporting a 9-12 mark on the season with only one win in conference action.

***Listen to the story***

UNC head coach Roy Williams has been asking for more practice time for the Tar Heels. Well, he’s had it this week.

And there’s been a lot to go over. For starters, Coach Williams says the big guys inside have to man up.

Marcus Paige takes a jumper with a hand in his face (Todd Melet)

Marcus Paige takes a jumper with a hand in his face (Todd Melet)

“We gave in a couple times. You can’t just let guys go in, lay the ball up, and have a big guy standing there looking at it. You got to get involved,” Coach Williams says.

What has caught the ire more than anything for Coach Williams this season has been the lack of success in the defensive rebounding department. As good as UNC has been at times on the offensive boards, it’s been just as bad when the other team has the ball.

Coach Williams says he’s ticked off.

“They had two offensive rebounds for baskets. I am getting so sick of that. 27 years as a head coach I’ve talked about rebounding more than anything. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t a great rebounder, but we got to do a better job of boxing out,” Coach Williams says.

Carolina’s opponent Saturday has found it hard to get its offense rolling in the tough ACC slate. But a decent defense has allowed the Eagles to hang around in a few games.

The Tar Heels will keep their eyes on capable junior guard Olivier Hanlan, who’s averaging 17 points per game for BC and can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor.

On the other side, the Eagles will be concentrating their efforts on junior guard Marcus Paige, who will be hoping the last few days free from competition will do wonders for his nagging foot injury.

Paige says the ‘sense of urgency’ phrase Coach Williams continually harps on is completely on point. After all, his Tar Heels still haven’t made playing with it, a habit.

“I’m sure he’s tired of having to talk to us about it. It wouldn’t be a problem if we had it and implemented it into what we do every day, every possession and every practice. Habits get built over time. You can’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I’m going to go hard every possession and go crazy.’ You have to develop that mentality and that attitude,” Paige says.

Roy Williams reacts to a play (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams reacts to a play (Todd Melet)

‘Losing yourself in the moment’ is another popular tag around the UNC locker room. Paige knows well what that’s supposed to look like.

“All the external stuff goes out the window. You’re focused on the here and now – diving on the floor. It’s something he’s [Coach Williams] has preached. You go in our locker room, it’s written on the board and up on posters,” Paige says.

When the UNC offense isn’t flowing, the heavy burden is normally heaped on Paige’s shoulders. But Coach Williams says UNC’s opponents aren’t dummies – they know that too and guard Paige appropriately.

With that in mind, the Carolina skipper says Paige’s teammates need to do a better job of helping their scoring leader out.

“You guys know a little about basketball yourself. If you were playing us, who would you guard? It’s pretty easy to figure out. We don’t do a very good job of helping him by getting better spacing, getting a score inside or setting screens for him. We’ve got to do a better job,” Coach Williams says.

UNC leads the all-time series with BC, 11-5, and won the last meeting between the two schools, 82-71, last year in Chapel Hill.

Just how much the extra time on the practice court has helped a Carolina squad that has been running out of steam in the second halves of late, remains a mystery, but Saturday’s road contest could provide some preliminary answers.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/back-drawing-board-unc-boston-college/

Balanced Tar Heels Clip Eagles 76-60 In Home Opener

The No. 6 North Carolina men’s basketball team got its season off to a winning start with balanced scoring that led to a comfortable 76-60 triumph over the N.C. Central Eagles Friday night in the Smith Center.

***Listen to the story***

Junior forward Brice Johnson led the Tar Heel scoring charge with 12 points and tossed in eight rebounds and two blocks. Those 12 points match the smallest output by a UNC leading scorer in any game last year.

Kennedy Meeks and J.P. Tokoto also scored in double figures with 10 points each, while freshman Justin Jackson closely followed, tallying nine points of his own.

UNC head coach Roy Williams reached an impressive milestone Friday night, earning his 1000th combined win as a college coach, beginning with his days as an assistant under Carolina’s Dean Smith.

Coach Williams wasn't all smiles Friday night (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams wasn’t all smiles Friday night (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams, though, wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the game. He says he was frustrated with his team’s overall play.

“We went to a lot of different lineups tonight, played a lot of people, didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well and didn’t handle the ball exceptionally well. We had 14 turnovers, and they had 14 turnovers. They’re playing zone most of the game. We were playing pressure man-to-man and full-court man-to-man and didn’t exactly get them to turn the ball over,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Earlier in the week, it seemed a certainty that junior forward J.P. Tokoto would be in the starting lineup for the home opener, but Coach Williams surprisingly started freshman Theo Pinson in his place.

Coach Williams says Tokoto did something to upset him in my practice, but insists he’s put it all behind him and is still pleased with Tokoto’s play leading up to the season.

“J.P. made a mistake in practice and did something I didn’t like, so I didn’t start him. It’s over with now. He started in the second half. It’s no big deal. He’s had a great preseason. He’s done some nice things for us and has had as good of, if not the best, preseason practice period as anybody on our team,” Coach Williams says.

Promising freshman Jackson was a star performer in the two preseason exhibition games, but he admits he felt a little more pressure Friday night in the regular season opener.

“I wouldn’t say I was extremely nervous, but obviously, it’s the first game that really counts. I was a little nervous, but once I got out there and started playing, I was fine,” Jackson says.

Jackson also notes a glaring strength for the Tar Heels – their depth.

Justin Jackson drives to the basket (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson drives to the basket (Todd Melet)

“On the court, we just keep getting better. We’ve got so many guys that can play this game. We can go so deep and never lose it. It’s really great,” Jackson says.

N.C. Central head coach LaVelle Moton, whose stock is rising with each successive season, had his Eagles playing a disciplined brand of basketball, confusing the Tar Heels at times with multiple defensive schemes.

Anthony McDonald scored 16 points to lead the Eagles on the offensive end.

Coach Williams was full of praise for the solid coaching job turned in by Coach Moton, but there was one irksome play that stuck out in his mind that will have an effect on practice this weekend.

“I think it’s a good learning experience. It’s a good team, a very good coach, and those kids played really hard. Again, one play in the first half, they had one guy going for the rebound and we had four. Who came up with the ball? Their guy. We’ll see that play at practice tomorrow,” Coach Williams says.

With the win, Carolina is now 93-12 in season openers and has recorded wins in 80 of its last 85 opening games. Under Coach Williams, the Tar Heels are 11-1 in openers.

UNC returns to action Sunday evening at 6 p.m. with a matchup against Robert Morris of the Northeast conference. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. tipoff.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-clip-eagles-opener/

No. 6 Tar Heels Open With Upset-Minded Eagles

The No. 6 North Carolina men’s basketball team opens up its regular season Friday night with an 8 p.m. tipoff against the upset-minded N.C. Central Eagles.

UNC head coach Roy Williams brings a deep squad into the game, but he says he won’t be playing around with the lineup now that the results count toward the win-loss columns.

“We’ll experiment quite a bit, but at the same time, we’re going to try to win games too. It’s important to realize we’ve had two exhibition games where we were far more gifted than the teams we were playing. I tried to experiment a lot in those times. I don’t see us experimenting nearly as much Friday and Sunday,” Coach Williams says.

Junior forward J.P. Tokoto says a more aggressive and bulked up teammate in Brice Johnson could make a huge impact on the hardwood.

Tokoto slam (Todd Melet)

Tokoto slams with authority (Todd Melet)

“In the NBA, when I think about an enforcer, I think about Kendrick Perkins. Around a lot of young guys, you have an old guy who’s out there to wreak havoc almost and be that dominating force and keep everybody going. If Brice [Johnson] truly wants to be that guy, I feel like we could really use somebody like that,” Tokoto says.

Although Coach Williams sees the opportunity for the Tar Heels to develop into a great defensive team, but for now, he says his lanky players have a ways to go.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be, even with changing defenses. We’re not as quick as we have been, but yet we’re longer than maybe we’ve ever been. I think that length helps you a lot too,” Coach Williams says.

N.C. Central battled its way to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season and pushed Iowa State, the team that ultimately knocked out Carolina.

Tokoto says playing head coach LeVelle Moton’s Eagles will give the Tar Heels a good indication of where they’re at as a team.

“Looking at their team last year, they were a hard-nosed team. I got to see them before we played Iowa State. I think this will be a great test for us, playing against a higher caliber team like N.C. Central,” Tokoto says.

WCHL’s coverage of opening night will begin at 6:30 p.m. with Countdown to Tipoff.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/6-tar-heels-open-upset-minded-eagles/

UNC Volleyball Climbs Four Spots After Classic Sweep

The UNC volleyball team jumped four spots in this week’s national rankings after sweeping its opponents in the Carolina Classic over the weekend.

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The AVCA Coaches’ voted the Tar Heels into the No. 13 spot after a hard-fought meeting with then-No. 16 Kentucky opened the weekend. The Tar Heels, then ranked No. 17, pulled off the five-set victory with a 16-14 final set. The Wildcats took sets two and three in dominating fashion (25-15 in each), but the Heels answered with a 25-13 set four to force the deciding set.

The weekend’s remaining games was a breeze comparatively as Carolina swept Georgia Southern and VCU on double-header Saturday.

UNC is 7-1 on the season and on a five-match winning streak after its 3-0 loss to Illinois in the Illini Classic on August 30.

The Tar Heels remain home this weekend for the ACC-Big 12 Classic. Oklahoma comes to town Friday, and Carolina hosts West Virginia on Saturday. Both matches begin at 6:00 p.m.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-volleyball-climbs-four-spots-classic-sweep/