For the first time since losing in the ACC Championship Game in March, the Tar Heels will take on Notre Dame.
Head coach Roy Williams said he expects his team to come out with more intensity when they travel to South Bend Saturday.
“Well you know we got our tails beat last game,” he said. “If you don’t step up right now there’s something wrong with you.”
Once again the Tar Heels look to break out of shooting slump that has plagued them for the past five games.
After shooting over 50 percent from the field in the majority of games before this stretch, the Tar Heels have shot under 40 percent in each of the past five games.
Point guard Marcus Paige is just 4-30 from three during this stretch.
Williams said he hasn’t seen anything like this slump since his first year at Kansas in 1988, when current Minnesota Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton had a rough shooting stretch.
“I just know at the end of the year at Oklahoma State, they had not lost a game at home,” Williams said. “we’re down two and we’ve got the basketball and I said ‘let’s take this Milt, knock this sucker in and get the crap out of town.’ We went for three to win the game, he made the three and we got the crap out of town. That’s the only time I can remember something like this.”
Even forward Isaiah Hicks, who leads the team in field goal percentage, is coming off a 2-8 game in which he scored 8 points.
“Everybody would like to make every shot they shoot, but it don’t work like that,” Hicks said. “Even me I missed a lot of layups and stuff. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it don’t.”
Hicks said the Tar Heels need to be patient and the shots will start falling again.
“We were kind of thinking about it too much,” he said. “Trying to force us to make shots but it doesn’t work like that. It’s going to fall sometime.”
Tip off on Saturday is at 7 p.m. Make sure to tune into WCHL starting at 5:30 for all of your pregame coverage. Joey DeVito 97.9 FM WCHL.http://chapelboro.com/featured/tar-heels-look-to-break-out-of-slump-again
Former Tar Heels Hakeem Nicks and Rasheed Wallace have both donated water to people affected by the Flint water crisis, according to reports.
Former Tar Heel All-America & Piston Rasheed Wallace is driving a truck filled w/cases of water from NC to Flint, Michigan tonight #GoHeels
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 4, 2016
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks is sending 17,000 bottles of water to a church in Flint, Michigan, to be distributed immediately.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 4, 2016
Wallace played for the Detroit Pistons from 2004-2009. Nicks is currently a wide receiver for the New York Giants.
Two years ago the state of Michigan, in a money saving decision, moved Flint’s water supply from Lake Hurton to the Flint River.
In order to make the water from the Flint River safe to drink, the government needed to add an anti-corrosive agent, which a class-action lawsuit alleges they did not do.
Brice Johnson has been named one of 10 finalists for the Karl Malone Award, given annually to the nation’s top power forward.
Johnson is putting up 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, leading the Tar Heels in both.
If Johnson’s pace continues he will be the first Tar Heel to average a double-double since John Henson averaged 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in the 2010-2011 season.
In March, the list will be narrowed to five finalists and the winner will be announced April 8.
Ryan Anderson (Arizona)
Taurean Prince (Baylor)
Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga)
Georges Niang (Iowa State)
Perry Ellis (Kansas)
Shawn Long (Louisiana-Lafayette)
Henry Ellenson (Marquette)
Pascal Siakam (New Mexico State)
Jameel Warney (Stony Brook)http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/brice-johnson-named-finalist-for-karl-malone-award
The No. 2 UNC men’s basketball team has earned a reputation for having great depth and the ability to win ugly games.
On Monday night, though, the Tar Heels may have played with fire for a little too long—shooting a season-low 34 percent in a 71-65 road loss to the No. 19 Louisville Cardinals, snapping a 12-game win streak.
As shot after shot clanged off the rim against the Cardinals’ high-pressure defense, UNC head coach Roy Williams could only watch as the clock hit triple zeroes and Louisville’s players dabbed in celebration after handing the ACC’s only unbeaten team its first conference loss after an 8-0 start.
Williams’ squad might be 19-3 overall, with all three losses coming on the road, but it’s shot under 40 percent in four of its last five games—forcing him to point out the obvious, and then explain what happened.
“We didn’t put the ball in the basket,” he said, after the game. “But their zone made it difficult for us to get it inside to our big guys.”
Senior forward Brice Johnson put together another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but was limited to just six shots against the Cardinals—who improve to 18-4 this season with a 7-2 mark in the ACC.
His partner-in-crime, Kennedy Meeks, only scored four points on four shots while held to just 18 minutes as he struggled with foul trouble.
Yet the Tar Heels still had a shot to win the game at the end—a testament to how well they find new ways to get the job done.
Down two points with just 35 seconds left, UNC grabbed three offensive rebounds during that final span—but couldn’t make the clutch plays this time.
All five Tar Heel shots after that point, including three at the rim, couldn’t find their way home– failing to produce any late-game magic.
“On the last play of the game—and I’ve never loved a player more than I have Marcus [Paige]—but we tipped it out and he goes after the ball with one hand,” Williams said. “Their guy comes in with two and gets the rebound.
“Kennedy [Meeks] goes up to get a rebound, and Trey Lewis—one of their guards—goes up to get a rebound and he came over [Meeks’] back and got the ball, knocked it out,” he continued. “I thought it was our ball, should have been a foul.
“But the referee saw it differently.”
One thing that wasn’t hard to see on Monday was that Paige, the senior guard, is still the poster boy for his team’s recent shooting slump. He made just three of his 13 attempts against Louisville, but continued to play strong in other areas–and his coach made sure to let everyone know.
“He hasn’t shot it worth a frankety-frank for the last four or five games,” Williams said of Paige. “Am I supposed to put him out and send him to Siberia?
“He’s one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached,” he added. “I’m gonna stick with him, I’m gonna coach him, and he’s gonna try to take shots.
“But I don’t have any potion I can rub on people.”
The biggest shock to Tar Heel fans was that the poor-shooting bug found sophomore point guard Joel Berry, who’s become the team’s most consistent backcourt player this season.
“Joel Berry’s been shooting it pretty doggone well,” Williams said. “And he’s 1-for-10 tonight, 1-for-5 from three. We need a little bit better than that.”
With a lid seemingly stuck on the basket for everyone not named Damion Lee—the Louisville forward who scored a game-high 24 points–it made beating a ranked team on the road that much tougher.
UNC played strong down the stretch, but ultimately ran out of gas in front of the raucous crowd, which stayed extremely loud throughout the game in support of their Cardinals.
“I felt like we had a sense of urgency,” Williams said of UNC’s performance. “But their sense of urgency was a little better than ours.”
Two more road games await the Tar Heels following this one on their challenging February schedule, including this Saturday against Notre Dame.
At some point the shots will have to start falling. If they don’t UNC could find itself in a little bit of troube.
Monday proved that elite competition doesn’t leave anywhere near as much room for error.
As college basketball begins to take the spotlight in the sporting world, the No. 2 Tar Heels defeated the Boston College Eagles 89-62 on Saturday—using the last place squad in the ACC as a tune-up before the competition becomes stronger.
It’s now 12 straight wins for the Tar Heels, who are 19-2 this season—including an 8-0 start to conference play.
Despite not having lost since Dec. 12, head coach Roy Williams’ team has struggled to find defensive consistency, and has had problems making shots in recent outings.
Although the Tar Heels made just 11 of their 22 free throws on Saturday, they forced a whopping 23 turnovers and shot 53 percent from the field.
“Before the game today, instead of putting up X’s and O’s on the board I said, ‘Let’s play get better on defense, get better on offense, and let’s give the A-grade effort—see if we’re mature enough to handle this.’” Williams said, referencing the recent sluggish play.
Brice Johnson continued his breakout season with 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who dropped Boston College to 7-14 overall and 0-8 in the ACC.
But it was the backcourt of Joel Berry and Marcus Paige that made the most noise. The two combined for five of UNC’s 12 steals, which netted the Tar Heels 30 points off of turnovers alone.
Offensively, Berry had 13 points and six assists as Paige finally broke out of his own personal slump—letting a big smile loose in the opening half when he knocked down a three-pointer for the first time since Jan. 9 at Syracuse.
“I want you to go the gym, miss twenty-something in a row—then make one and have the whole arena cheer for you,” Paige said to reporters after the game. “I’ve never missed that many shots in a row in my life. So to just finally give one to people, it was relieving.”
There were still plenty of sloppy moments for the Tar Heels, like the poor free throw shooting and a slow start to the first half—but the frenetic defense and improved shot-making provides the team with somewhere to build from.
This game was just the beginning for UNC, Berry said, as the team enters its all-important stretch run.
“Once the shots start falling, and we come together on the defensive end, we can be a great team,” Berry said. “But we have to start doing that.
“We knocked down some shots today, and Marcus knocked down some which was good to see,” he continued. “We just need to focus on the defensive end—that’s the biggest thing we need to key in on. And we’re gonna do that later down the road.”
That road will start with Monday’s trip to Louisville, but also includes a game at Notre Dame– followed by a visit to Boston to take on the Eagles again.
After that road stretch, there’s two games against Duke, one versus Miami and another with Virginia—all teams who have spent plenty of time in the top 25 this year.
Always a master motivator, Williams issued a simple challenge to his players regarding the tough upcoming matchups.
“If we play the way we’ve played the last four games, it’ll be very difficult to win any of those [upcoming] games,” the coach said. “So we’ve gotta play better.”
UNC will now be chasing consistency from here on out, but sophomore wing Theo Pinson said it best when addressing what’s to come in the next couple months.
“It’s go time now,” Pinson said. “And I think we’re ready.”
Just a single off day awaits the Tar Heels, as they prepare to face head coach Rick Pitino and his Louisville Cardinals–who are currently ranked No. 16 in the nation.
With all the snow and ice covering the East Coast, you can’t blame the No. 2 UNC men’s basketball team for thinking this game against Virginia Tech was some sort of vacation.
The Tar Heels came into Cassell Coliseum on Sunday riding a 10-game win streak–then opened up a 20-point lead on the Hokies in the first half.
But after a furious Virginia Tech rally, the Tar Heels were forced to hang on for a narrow 75-70 victory.
It was a comeback that quickly reminded Roy Williams’ team that they were, in fact, on a business trip.
“We started thinking it was gonna be easy,” the UNC head coach said after the game. “And I also took out Brice [Johnson]. I took out Kennedy [Meeks]. Isaiah [Hicks] was out. So three of our top six guys were out because they had two fouls.
“I’ve said all year long, our depth has got to be important to us, and I think it was,” he added.
Johnson, the Tar Heels’ best player as of late, added to his ACC Player of the Year resume with 19 points and 17 rebounds. He also made a significant impact on the defensive end–chipping in four steals and three blocks to help put away the upset-minded Hokies.
UNC is now 18-2 this season (7-0 ACC), but has not played the prettiest basketball over its past three games.
Joel Berry was the only Tar Heel to join Johnson in double figures–scoring 13, despite making just three of his 11 shots.
The struggles also continued for Marcus Paige.
Paige, the senior guard who came into Sunday shooting a combined 3-for-25 from the field with eight points over the past three games, finished with just seven points and made just two of his 10 shots. He did contribute seven assists, however, and hit a pair of critical free throws down the stretch.
“I know there’s frustration,” Williams said of Paige. “I don’t think it’s pressure. He and I talk, so I don’t think he’s pressing or anything. I think he’s extremely frustrated, which, I think he should be extremely frustrated.
“If I had made three of my last 25,” the coach continued. “Hell, I’d be hesitant too.”
As a team, the Tar Heels connected on just three of their 23 attempts from three-point range on Sunday–and made just 37.8 percent of their field goals.
The foul trouble that hampered UNC’s big men early on against the Hokies forced freshman Luke Maye into 11 minutes of playing time.
It also allowed Virginia Tech (12-8, 4-3 ACC) to get to the free throw line 32 times–of which it made 22. The Hokies–led by Zach Leday’s 17 points–drilled eight three-pointers on the day, with three of them coming during the 18-3 run that closed out the first half.
Through it all, UNC still found a way to win–as ugly as it may have been.
“I was not concerned,” Williams said about his team’s recent shooting woes. “But now, I can be concerned if I want to, because three games in a row is enough. [We’ve] got to be able to step up and make some shots.”
It’s been well-documented in recent weeks the amount of depth the Tar Heels have. But this win was more about grit than it was about having a number of different players step up.
As the lead dwindled and the clocked ticked away, Virginia Tech seemed to have an answer for everything the Tar Heels threw its way–until it mattered most.
With the score tied at 68 and just two minutes to play, UNC tightened up defensively and made plays when they were needed.
Johnson and Paige combined to hit five free throws down the stretch, while Berry found Justin Jackson underneath the rim for an easy layup in between.
The Hokies during that span missed three shots and turned the ball over twice.
Williams’ team simply put on its hard hats and did what it’s become accustomed to lately.
Grinding it out, no matter how much whiter it makes the coach’s hair.
Now, the number one ranking awaits.
If the Tar Heels do return to the top of the polls, they won’t make their first defense until Saturday, Jan. 30 at home against the Boston College Eagles–the ACC’s last place team.
Without playing anywhere close to its potential on Wednesday night, the No. 2 UNC men’s basketball team still managed an 83-68 win at the Smith Center over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The Tar Heels have now won 10 games in a row—and could return to No. 1 next week—even though their brightest star, senior guard Marcus Paige, finds himself mired in the biggest slump of his career.
In the past three games—all of which have come after he got his first haircut of the season—Paige has scored a total of just eight points, including two on Wednesday, and has made only three of his last 25 shots.
Despite Paige’s struggles, his roommate–Brice Johnson—answered the bell against Wake Forest with 27 points and 11 rebounds–lifting the team’s record to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the ACC.
Johnson was the only UNC player to reach double figures for head coach Roy Williams in a sloppy game that saw the Tar Heels build a 16-point halftime lead, before poor defense allowed the Demon Deacons– now 10-8 with a 1-5 mark in conference play–to stick around.
“We won,” Williams said after the game, following it with a sarcastic chuckle. “I’m as happy as I can possibly be. It wasn’t very pretty.
“Wake struggled, and so did we.”
What’s telling about the Tar Heels’ ability to win games by double digits without Paige producing as he normally does, is that they’re showing how consistent they can be no matter who scores the points.
If that’s the case now, and a double-digit win can be viewed in a negative light, then certainly nobody will want to face UNC when Paige gets it together and everything’s clicking.
Just don’t ask Williams when that will be, because his guess is as good as yours.
“I’ve never had a player in 28 years as a head coach that I’ve got more confidence in than Marcus [Paige],” Williams said.
“So I’m gonna go get a crystal ball, put a wig on, and get some incense.” he continued. “Is that what it is? That smoke stuff? And then chant something to see if I can figure it out.”
It wasn’t just Paige that had an off-night though. The Tar Heels shot just 38 percent as a team, their second worst performance of the season—with the last game against NC State being the worst. They also allowed Wake Forest to make 13 layups in a second half in which they shot just 26 percent themselves.
Sophomore guard Joel Berry, who was UNC’s second leading scorer with nine points, explained to reporters how that happened.
“I mean, we were up 20,” Berry said. “And so we thought we had the game coming into the second half. They just kept playing.
“They didnt get it too close, but we could get another team that could get on a roll and we won’t be able to stop ‘em.”
After top-ranked Oklahoma lost to Iowa State on Monday, the door is now open for the Tar Heels to return to the top spot in the rankings for the first time since late November. All they need to do is defeat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Sunday and they’ll be back atop the mountain.
To reach that point, there’s still plenty of room for improvement—which is scary given the way this team has been able to win convincingly while turning in a few sub-par performances.
“We have all the pieces that we need,” Berry said. “We just have to play to our potential, and not take it easy on anyone.
“I think once we get to that point–and we start buckling down on the defensive end—I think that’ll just take us to being a greater team.”
With that “should have done more” feeling permeating throughout the locker room, it shouldn’t be a shock to hear that Williams was in touch with his inner Mick Jagger as he got ready to leave the arena.
“Satisfaction is not part of my language right now,” the coach said before pausing for a second.
“Nowhere. No. Not even close”
UNC will play four of its next five games away from home, starting with this Sunday’s contest at Virginia Tech, who is 12-7 right now with a 4-2 mark in the ACC.
Students at Rashkis Elementary School gathered on Wednesday to hear from special guests encouraging them to read.
About 100 eager third graders filed into the library at Rashkis for a special guest reading to cheer on the students during the read-a-thon going on at the school.
Duke Energy North Carolina president David Fountain was joined by senior Tar Heel basketball player Marcus Paige to read to the students. Fountain and Paige read ‘Salt in His Shoes’ about the struggles of a young man who turned out to be legendary Tar Heel basketball player Michael Jordan.
Paige spoke to the third graders about the importance of reading.
“My mom is an English teacher in high school,” Paige told the students. “So she always made me read, ever since I was you guys’ age.”
He told the students that he knew the teachers were asking the students to read as part of the read-a-thon, but added he hoped they would learn to enjoy reading.
“Reading is basically the foundation of your entire education,” Paige told the eager listeners. “When you get to college, you read a lot of books and a lot of articles and a lot of journals. And if you enjoy it, it makes it a lot easier and it makes you able to get more information from what you read.”
The event was part of Duke Energy Reading Days to promote childhood literacy. Duke’s North Carolina president David Fountain said the utility felt this was an important area to emphasize.
“Duke Energy has long been a supporter of education in North Carolina,” Fountain said. “And we feel like it’s particularly important for young students to be able to have the skills to succeed later in life.
“And that’s why we focused on early reading as an area that we wanted to support.”
While the students were certainly happy to see Paige, the Tar Heel basketball star, there was no doubt he finished second as the most popular person to the third graders behind UNC mascot Rameses.http://chapelboro.com/featured/marcus-paige-reads-to-chapel-hill-third-graders
In just his second game back from a bruised knee—and his first time back in the starting lineup—junior forward Kennedy Meeks scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half on Saturday, as the No. 5 UNC men’s basketball team defeated the NC State Wolfpack 67-55 at the Dean Dome.
Now at 16-2 this season—including 5-0 in the ACC—the Tar Heels are forcing opponents to pick their poison each game as they continue to extend the best conference start since Roy Williams arrived as head coach in 2003.
Despite seeing its three leading scorers–Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige, and Justin Jackson–held to a combined 15 points for the game, UNC didn’t panic.
The team simply turned to Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, who scored eight of his 10 points during a stagnant first half, to get the job done.
“For us, our depth has always been a positive,” Williams said after the game. “I think Isaiah and Nate [Britt] really kept us in the game in the first half. And then Kennedy was really much, much better in the second half.”
Although the Wolfpack boast the top scorer in the ACC with point guard Cat Barber, UNC took advantage of NC State’s biggest weakness—depth.
Eleven different players took the floor for the Tar Heels compared to just seven for their opponents.
By the end of the game, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried was having his team play zone defense to try and not only stop the Tar Heels’ inside attack, but also to conserve energy. Unfortunately for Gottfried, Meeks and his teammates saw blood in the water and pounced—opening up a game that was tied at halftime.
“When they got into that zone, you could kind of see that they were getting tired—and also because they were in foul trouble,” Meeks said. “So we just tried to keep attacking them and getting those and-one baskets or whatever it may be.”
Meeks not only made noise with his scoring on Saturday, but he also provided a number of hustle plays, including a few dives on the floor and three blocked shots.
As the Wolfpack players began wearing down, Meeks’ energy was the difference down the stretch. In fact it was that, more than anything else that impressed Williams.
“I think it was just total effort,” Williams said of Meeks’ performance. “You saw it yourself. I asked him ‘Did you really dive those three times or did somebody trip you?’ He said he really did dive.
“But I think that was important,” the coach added. “And his blocked shots [were too]. In the first half he was sort of tiptoeing up there.”
After a week-long break leading up to this game, UNC will now play out the rest of the season without that kind of prolonged layoff.
For that reason, depth becomes more important, especially considering the heavy competition awaiting the Tar Heels at the back end of their schedule.
The fact that Meeks is back at full strength, though, should put fear into the team’s upcoming foes. They’re capable of winning in so many different ways that these players all legitimately believe this may just be the start of something special.
“Somebody had to step up with Brice and Marcus and Justin [not having] their best games,” Meeks said. “It just happened to be me today.
“It feels good to be a part of this team,” he continued. “We’re capable of going really far this year.
A second straight home game against an in-state rival awaits the Tar Heels on Wednesday–as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons make a visit to the Dean Dome.
Carolina held Cat Barber to a season-low nine points on 4 of 11 shooting from the floor, a season-high tying five turnovers and no free throw attempts. Barber had been averaging 8.7 free throw attempts this season.
Marcus Paige scored three points for the second consecutive game and did not make a three-point field goal for the first time in 42 games.
Two UNC seniors have been included among the 25 college basketball players on the Wooden Award midseason watch list.
Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige were named to the list released on Wednesday. Carolina is one of four schools with two players on the midseason list, joining Gonzaga, Kansas and Kentucky.
Johnson leads the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding, averaging 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Johnson also leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in field goal percentage making 64 percent of his field goal attempts.
Paige is averaging just over 15 points per game since returning from a fractured hand that help the senior out of the first six games of the season, including his homecoming game against Northern Iowa which the Tar Heels lost. Paige has accumulated 45 assists on the season compared with only eight turnovers. Paige holds the UNC records for most consecutive games with a three pointer, 41, and total three-point field goals in a career.
Duke’s Grayson Allen, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon and Louisville guard Damion Lee all represent the ACC on the midseason list. The ACC has more representatives in the 25-player list than any other conference.
The 40th annual Wooden Award, presented to the nation’s top player, will be handed out in April.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-seniors-marcus-paige-and-brice-johnson-named-to-wooden-watch-list