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.




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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


Click to enlarge

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.


Return To Form: Diamond Heels Grab Road ACC Series Win

The No.30 North Carolina baseball team completed a series victory over Boston College Sunday with a dominating 12-2 win to improve to 18-13 overall and 7-8 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Eagles dropped to 10-20 on the season and 2-13 in conference action.

Freshman pitcher Zac Gallen turned in a solid performance, combining with reliever Reilly Hovis to allow a mere two runs off five hits.

Michael Russell reached base on five occasions and scored three runs while Parks Jordan and Landon Lassiter got in on the offensive explosion with three runs apiece as well.

Next up for the Tar Heels is the opener of a five-game homestand. Carolina will host North Carolina A & T Tuesday at 6 p.m. inside Boshamer Stadium.



Diamond Heels Head To Chestnut Hill To Take On Eagles

The No. 30 North Carolina baseball team, 16-12 on the season and 5-7 in conference, will hit the road Friday for the start of an ACC series at Boston College, 9-18 overall and 1-11 in league play.

Carolina is coming off a victory against UNC-Wilmington Tuesday that snapped a rough six-game losing streak. The Eagles have recorded back-to-back home wins against Connecticut and Massachusetts heading into their meeting with the Tar Heels.

The Diamond Heels are 16-1 all-time against the Eagles. Boston College’s sole victory came in Chestnut Hill in 2009 – Carolina’s last visit to Boston College.

Trent Thornton will get the start at the mound on Friday. Thornton owns a 5-1 mark and 2.02 ERA on the season.

First pitch is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday’s contest will commence at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will begin a 1 p.m.