The No. 13 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 17-4 overall and 7-1 in ACC play, travels to No. 10 Louisville, 17-3 on the season and 5-2 in the league, to take on the defensive-minded Cardinals Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. in a pivotal ACC showdown.
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The Tar Heels will hope to be road warriors in the coming weeks as they strap themselves in for a stretch that includes away games in four of the next five matchups.
That all begins Saturday with a tough test at the KFC Yum Center against a Louisville squad that will have revenge on its mind. Earlier this month, the Cardinals dropped a 72-71 decision to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
UNC is looking for its seventh win in a row and 12th in 13 games overall. In the latest win against Syracuse, it was sophomore guard Nate Britt who made a welcome statement.
“Nate was awesome. I feel so good for him. He had the death of his grandfather the night of the N.C. State game and 15 stitches in his mouth at Wake Forest. He’s been battling, battling, battling,” UNC head coach Coach Williams says.
Despite the radical switch in shooting hands last summer, Coach Williams says he never doubted Britt’s decision.
“His release looks great. His left-handed release because of the hitch he had never looked great. I’ve never doubted that decision. You love it when you have that kind of support from the family. He’s been struggling. The little rascal was a big-time player for us,” Coach Williams says.
Meanwhile, Carolina junior point guard Marcus Paige rang up a team-leading 22 points Monday night. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Paige this season. But to that end, Coach Williams says he’s never been too concerned with Paige’s shooting touch.
“I told you guys more than once that if Marcus was my biggest concern, I’ve got a really blessed life,” Coach Williams says.
Against a Cardinal squad led by two outstanding playmakers in Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell, the Tar Heels will need to be flowing on the offensive end to escape enemy territory victorious.
For UNC, a comfortable Britt, who says his team is like a family to him, will be looking for a reprise of his standout performance.
“I’ve had a lot of support from my family, teammates, and especially the coaching staff. They’ve always made me feel like this is a second home from me. Anything that I’ve ever needed, they’ve been there for me,” Britt says.
Coach Williams is open and honest about his team’s inability to knock down shots, but in recent games, it seems the Tar Heels have begun to find the range.
Three guys got 17 and another guy got 22 against a defense that’s really tough for us. We don’t shoot the ball especially well to say the least, but nine out of 16 tonight [vs. Syracuse], I’ll take that every night to say the least,” Coach Williams says.
In Carolina’s six-game winning streak, the team has shot 50.8 percent from the floor.
Britt, for one, has supreme confidence in his team’s upward trajectory in the ACC. With all the pieces seemingly coming together, the sophomore is relishing his team’s chances.
“We’re starting to feel each other out a little bit more. Kennedy [Meeks] and Brice [Johnson] have been playing off the charts. Marcus [Paige] is getting his confidence back. When we have everybody working and doing their job, we can be really good,” Britt says.
UNC leads the all-time series with the Cardinals 10-3. The last win for Rick Pitino’s squad came more than fifteen years ago in 1999.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-hope-hit-lucky-seven-hostile-territory/
With the loss, the Orange dropped to 14-7 on the season and 5-3 in league action.
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At the half, UNC head coach Roy Williams had plenty of ammo for his locker room speech. He had 13 bullets in his gun.
Those ‘bullets’ represented the 13 turnovers committed by the Tar Heels in the opening 20 minutes of action.
“First half I thought they out-competed us, and our turnovers led to 16 points, and you can’t have 13 turnovers in a half and have a team outscore you 16 to two,” Coach Williams says.
The Tar Heels cleaned up their act in the second half and certainly fared better against Syracuse’s famed zone defense this season, shooting at a 55-percent clip as a team to erase the misery that was a 57-45 loss at the Carrier Dome a year ago.
“Everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket. That’s the bottom line,” Coach Williams says.
But the victory didn’t come easy. UNC was forced to overcome a season-high 20 turnovers and withstand an offensive onslaught from Syracuse junior guard Trevor Cooney and senior forward Rakeem Christmas.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
Cooney finished with 28 points to lead all scorers while Christmas tallied 22 points and was also a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
But ultimately, Syracuse couldn’t keep up with the torrid offensive pace set by Carolina in the second half. Junior point guard Marcus Paige led the Tar Heel scoring charge with 22 points, including four makes from behind the arc.
But one of his teammates, upstaged him on this night. Switch-shooting sophomore Nate Britt poured in four three-pointers of his own on his way to a career-high 17 points, and according to Syracuse Hall of Fame head coach Jim Boeheim, Britt proved to be the “difference-maker”.
“I think Britt probably was the difference-maker in the game. He made four threes, and I thought that was the big difference in the game. I thought we played well. I think North Carolina just had a great second half, and that was it,” Coach Boeheim says.
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After falling behind 7-2 early, a Paige three-pointer tied the game up at 7 points apiece with 15:45 to go in the first half.
But six quick turnovers hindered UNC’s progression, allowing the Orange a chance to capitalize on the home team’s mistakes. But Syracuse’s inefficiency on the offensive end allowed Carolina to hang close, well save for one player.
Cooney was electric, knocking down shot after shot from behind the arc, some even from NBA range. With 6:35 to play, the Orange held a 24-19 advantage.
Outside of Cooney though, the Orange were struggling to find much point production. The Tar Heels found their shooting touch and a rare successful J.P. Tokoto three-pointer was a testament to that.
Despite a whopping 13 first-half turnovers from UNC, at the intermission, Carolina trailed by a mere five points at 40-35.
Out of the locker room, it was Brice Johnson who was all fired up, providing a spark to the UNC offense and in turn, igniting the Tar Heel faithful.
A strong finish in the paint from Meeks drew a foul and the chance at a three-point play with 15:58 remaining in the contest. He converted. As a result, the Tar Heels drew within a single point at 47-46.
Per usual, Paige rose to the occasion in the second half. He popped a three with 11:30 remaining to tie the game up at 56-all.
But Christmas was imposing himself on the other end for the Orange, grabbing rebounds and working his way to the foul line.
With both offenses fully engaged, the game transformed into a back-and-forth affair. Britt joined the scoring frenzy with back-to-back three-point makes. With 7:12 to play, UNC sported a 68-62 lead.
With Christmas leading the Orange attack and Britt spurring on the Tar Heels, both defenses struggled to gain much traction down the stretch.
But it was Carolina who was able to gut out its free throws in the crucible of the tense final minutes to gutt out yet another narrow victory and send the Smith Center fans home happy.
After the game, Britt was all smiles.
“I felt like I kept getting open looks and my teammates kept looking for me, and when you have those guys telling you to shoot it, I felt like I had no choice, and so I was able to knock a few down,” Britt says.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a tough road trip out to No. 10 Louisville for a 4 p.m. tipoff Saturday afternoon in the KFC Yum Center.
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 16-4 overall and 6-1 in conference play, will square off with the Syracuse Orange, 14-6 on the season and 5-2 in the ACC, Monday night inside the Smith Center.
The Tar Heels will be gunning for their sixth straight victory and will welcome the Orange to Chapel Hill for the first time as a fellow ACC member.
Jim Boeheim’s squad will be looking to rebound from a 66-62 home loss to Miami Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
The quick turnaround for both teams could lead to a fatigue factor, but junior forward J.P. Tokoto says he’s not worried about the Tar Heels being ready to roll.
“We have great trainers that are going to help us take care of our bodies the next couple days. Practice is going to be a little lighter at a faster pace – working out some things that we see in film that we need to correct,” Tokoto says.
Coach Williams has been pleading for more toughness out of his players all season long, but he says he’s seen good progress in that department. But still, he’s waiting for a charge, and he’s hoping to see it Monday night.
“We’ve gotten better, we really have. James Michael McAdoo set the tone for everybody. I say one man makes a majority. If you step up, everybody will follow. Today, we had several opportunities to take a charge, and we haven’t got one yet. We’re going to get one next game. I think we’ll get one. If we don’t, we’ll have a ‘take charge’ drill in practice. We’re going to get one before I die,” Coach Williams says.
Those extra effort plays are usually the ones that decide the outcomes in the habitual down-to-the-wire games in the ACC. The tilt against the zone-heavy defense and rangy athleticism of the Orange should be no exception.
Coach Williams, though, says UNC’s defensive play is still not up to his liking, and it’s keeping him from doling out high praise to the big guys like Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks.
“The defense stinks. When they start playing great defense, then I’ll anoint them also. Brice – what play do you think I liked more than any play Brice made in the game? He dove on the floor,” Coach Williams says. “He didn’t get on Twitter to ask his followers if he should dive on this possession. He dove on the daggum floor and got us an extra possession to score. It was a pretty significant move.”
Syracuse’s senior forward Rakeem Christmas will put UNC’s defense to the test. Christmas is averaging 18 points per outing, tallying 23 points last time out against the Hurricanes.
And with just a day of recovery time for a Carolina squad that has lost a considerable amount of depth due to recent injuries, the ninth meeting between UNC and Syracuse figures to be a compelling contest.
The Tar Heels are Orange are locked up at 4 wins apiece all-time.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-orange-face-off-monday-night/
With the loss, the Seminoles dropped to 10-10 on the season with a 2-5 mark in league play.
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In a physical contest featuring a host of long, lean and athletic players, the Tar Heels and Seminoles authored a rigorous clash ferociously waged on both sides of the floor. UNC finished with a slim 36-35 edge in rebounds.
What’s more, it was a refreshingly clean game with a mere 15 combined turnovers, with the Tar Heels only coughing up the ball on five occasions, a season low.
“Coach [Williams] was very excited about that because he is big in turnovers. For ourselves, we are extremely happy just because we don’t have to run in practice,” junior forward J.P. Tokoto says.
UNC head coach Roy Williams says he was pleased with his team’s effort overall.
“We are good to say the least, we got the ‘W’, it was a weird game at times, but we did some nice things. Our execution on offense at the end, and also defensively, I thought we played well at times,” Coach Williams says.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
Balanced scoring was the theme of the day yet again for UNC with four players finishing in double figures. Junior guard Marcus Paige led the way with 19 points while Brice Johnson added in a flashy 18 points of his own to go along with 14 bruising rebounds.
But it was FSU freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes who stole the show, lighting up the Smith Center to the tune of 35 points – the most by any opposing player in Chapel Hill since 2006, when J.J. Redick of Duke accomplished the feat.
“Boy, [Xavier] Rathan-Mayes, we held him scoreless without a field goal for about four or five minutes, but all of a sudden in the last 30 seconds he made three or four of them in a row. He was a difficult guy for us to guard,” Coach Williams says.
Although Coach Williams insists he’s still not satisfied with UNC’s team defense, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton says the Tar Heels present a formidable challenge.
“North Carolina is tremendous in quickness, speed, athleticism and they’re very talented. I don’t know what else I can say. They’re well-coached, and they executed their defensive game plan very well. They make life miserable for just about everyone who they play,” Coach Hamilton says.
***Click here for the full game photo gallery***
Rathan-Mayes certainly got off to a hot start, scoring the first 7 points for the Seminoles, but Carolina countered with some efficient, quick offense of its own.
With 15:38 to play, UNC held a narrow 10-9 lead, but the defensive energy displayed by the Tar Heels would soon overwhelm the offensively-challenged Seminoles.
Johnson and Paige combined to spur the ruthless Carolina attack. The Tar Heels used crisp passing and patient shot selection to take quality shots and more often than not, make them.
Johnson picked up his third foul for an illegal screen at the 5:35 mark in the first half and promptly took a seat on the bench for the remainder of the half for Carolina. With Johnson off the floor, the battling Seminoles were able to whittle away at the Tar Heel lead.
At intermission, UNC sported a 35-31 advantage over visiting FSU. However, it was FSU that was getting the better of the rebounding battle with an 18-14 edge.
Out of the locker room, the intensity was ratcheted up on both sides of the ball with the game hanging in the balance. The athleticism and length, as has become custom of a Leonard Hamilton-coached team at FSU, definitely challenged the Tar Heels.
At the under-16 timeout, UNC maintained a 45-38 lead.
FSU’s athleticism was answered by J.P. Tokoto’s ability to evade defenders and slash his way to the rim. And the junior forward’s emphatic block on the defensive end five minutes into the second half emboldened the Dean Dome crowd.
But with 12:59 to play, an easy basket off the glass by FSU center Boris Bojanovsky trimmed the UNC lead down to a mere three points at 48-45.
Both squads relentlessly worked the ball inside down the stretch – picking up fouls or finishing at the rim. Mayes continued to put on a shooting clinic for the Seminoles, knocking down three after three to keep his team in it.
In the end, though, to the delight of the home crowd, it was Carolina that was able to hold on against a young and steadily improving FSU team that showed flashes of potential future success.
UNC sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks says the Tar Heels will do whatever it takes to tough out victories.
“It’s all about toughness. I think that’s what we have really been focusing on since we have players down. Coach has been preaching that in practice. It’s all about picking our teammates up and really grinding it out,” Meeks says.
The Tar Heels face a quick turnaround, back in action Monday night against the Syracuse Orange. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff in the Smith Center.
In his tenure, Florida State men’s basketball head coach Leonard Hamilton has transformed the Seminoles, who won the 2012 ACC Tournament title, from an afterthought into a formidable force in college basketball.
WCHL’s Blake Hodge had a chance to chat with Coach Hamilton as his FSU squad aims for an upset in Chapel Hill Saturday afternoon.
***Listen to the conversation***http://chapelboro.com/sports/acc/unc-scouting-report-fsu-coach-leonard-hamilton/
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Despite the mediocre record, the Seminoles are coming in with some momentum, fresh off a gritty road win at Clemson earlier this week.
There are mixed reviews for the Tar Heels. Carolina has won four straight in conference play and is coming off an impressive performance at Wake Forest, where the game was never in doubt.
But the injury bug has hit. Exactly who will be available for active duty Saturday remains a mystery. Nate Britt and Theo Pinson are just the latest duo in a discouragingly long line of Tar Heels getting banged up.
Coach Williams says the health of his players is even cutting into valuable practice time.
“We haven’t had very many practices recently. We’ve been trying to milk minutes for Marcus [Paige] and Joel Berry’s not out there. Nate’s [Britt] the only healthy point guard, and he got beat up tonight [Wed.],” Coach Williams says.
But back on the court, Wednesday night’s road effort in Winston-Salem showcased a renewed commitment to aggression in the paint.
Coach Williams says not much has changed since his prediction in the preseason – if the Tar Heels want to be a championship-caliber basketball team, the big guys are going to have to do the heavy lifting.
“I said in the first press conference that we had that our team needed a couple big guys to step up and be big-time players. I’ll still say that right now. From the perimter, we’re okay, but Marcus [Paige] hasn’t played the way I want him to play or the way he wants to play. But if the big guys give us those kind of numbers, that’s pretty good,” Coach Williams says.
Injuries and foul trouble coupled to influence Coach Williams’ decision to incorporate a 2-3 zone against the Deacs. But despite the burgeoning use of the zone, don’t expect the Tar Heels to discard their preferred man-to-man style any time soon.
Junior forward Brice Johnson says his teammates need to do a better job of avoiding fouls by playing smarter.
“We went in the zone. At the same time, you can’t rely on that every game. It’s just something that was in the heat of the moment, and Coach decided to do. From now on, we got to watch our fouls, don’t make silly fouls and execute on the defensive end,” Johnson says.
UNC’s balanced scoring has junior guard Marcus Paige confident about the state of the Tar Heels as they progress deeper into the ACC gauntlet.
“We were able to get a nice, comfortable lead. Justin’s [Jackson] playing better. If Kennedy [Meeks] and Brice play like they did tonight, that’s great. J.P. [Tokoto]’s finding his comfort zone. I made a couple shots. I think we’re starting to hit our stride,” Paige says.
UNC’s opponent this weekend, FSU, could offer some resistance to a potential home steamrolling. The Seminoles, no longer an afterthought after their stirring 2012 ACC Tournament title, will be hungry for another statement in a disappointing season to date.
A pair of junior guards, Aaron Thomas and Montay Brandon, does most of the work for Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles, who have shown a knack for jumping up and surprising elite teams.
One thing is for sure. The Seminoles should lace up their shoes tight against UNC. Coach Williams wants the Tar Heels to speed up proceedings.
“I like the pace, but again, we’re still not going as fast as I want us to go. If we were better shooters, I’d want us to go even faster, but I like to be more selective with our shot selection. Shooting sixty percent for the game is extremely good. When we shoot the ball like that, I think we’re a really good basketball team if you don’t play stupid sometimes,” Coach Williams says.
UNC leads the all-time series with FSU, 46-12, and has emerged victorious the last four meetings.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/surging-tar-heels-take-struggling-seminoles/
The atmosphere in the UNC locker room that night was like a funeral. Heads drooped, bodies slumped, and tears were choked back. Everyone in the room struggled to comprehend what was happening.
It was Wednesday, December 3rd, and the Tar Heels had just finished up a disappointing 60-55 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes. After losing to Butler a week earlier, this marked their second upset loss in eight days, dropping them to 5-2 on the year.
A firestorm of criticism and worries rained down upon the team. Marcus Paige wasn’t vocal enough as a leader. The freshmen didn’t produce enough. And most of all, after a second half in which they gave up 16 offensive rebounds to the Hawkeyes, the big men weren’t tough enough.
The Paige uproar was put to bed weeks ago, with the game winner at home against Louisville, and the Picasso-like masterpiece he painted on the road against N.C. State – not to mention the revelation of the plantar fasciitis he’s been playing with all year long.
Recently, he’s had plenty of help from his teammates, who have all begun to step up to the challenge of quieting the haters. The result has been the team’s most impressive stretch of play all season.
Crazily enough, nobody was quieter after the Iowa game than junior forward Brice Johnson. Foul trouble limited him to just 12 minutes. In the time he was on the floor, Johnson scored two points on seven shot attempts, while only snagging four rebounds. It was easily his worst performance of the season.
Questioned about missing a few layups around the rim that night, an extremely somber and emotional Johnson said to reporters that for the team to improve in the future he needed to “Stop being a baby and just go up there and dunk it.”
It’s time to take notice, because for Brice Johnson and the rest of the Carolina supporting cast, that future is starting to come to fruition. The Tar Heels have won four in a row, sport a 15-4 overall record, and they sit at 5-1 in the brutal ACC, trailing only Virginia and Notre Dame. These guys are the reason why.
I mention Brice because his up-and-down play throughout his career has seemingly turned him into a lightning rod for criticism.
His play is often the X-factor when determining whether the Heels win or lose. In each of the losses he’s failed to record more than five rebounds, despite averaging close to eight per game for the season. During the recent winning streak, he’s posted two double-doubles, scored in double figures in every game, and held Louisville’s All-American forward Montrezl Harrell to just nine points and five boards.
Oh yeah, and he’s been dunking the ball…A lot.
Kennedy Meeks has unintentionally given birth to one of Chapel Hill’s newest traditions, with viewers at home tipping their glasses back each time they are reminded by TV announcers that Meeks lost fifty pounds during the offseason. Also, in his spare time he’s managed to lead UNC in rebounding and shooting percentage, forming what could possibly be considered the ACC’s best frontcourt tag-team along with Johnson.
Their play up front has also been supplemented by freshman Justin Jackson, who has started every game but is just now starting to find his groove. His three point shot is falling, he’s getting to the free throw line, and his long, wiry frame has helped him play excellent defense on the wing. The last two games have been Jackson’s best of the year, scoring 16 and grabbing seven rebounds against Virginia Tech followed by 17 more points Wednesday night at Wake Forest.
The other freshmen on the roster, point guard Joel Berry and small forward Theo Pinson, are each sidelined with injuries, but have made their mark in recent wins. Berry’s second half three-pointer that ignited the Tar Heels’ comeback victory from 13 down with eight minutes to play against Louisville stands as the most notable.
Sophomore guard Nate Britt has also come off the bench and added some much-needed outside shooting.
Since the beginning of the season, it’s been known that for Carolina to reach the ceiling their preseason #6 ranking created for them, Paige playing outstanding would not be enough. The development of the rest of this young, athletic team, loaded with potential, was always going to be the key.
Johnson has put his big boy pants on, and the rest of Paige’s posse has followed suit.
Two home games against Florida State and Syracuse are next on the schedule for the Heels. If these boys continue to play like they have, the streak will be at six heading into Louisville, with a home contest against undefeated Virginia on the horizon.
Funeral plans have been canceled. Casket talk has been put to rest. This team is very much alive.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/whole-cliques-clickin-unc/
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team used a blistering offense to cruise past Wake Forest , 87-71, inside Joel Coliseum Wednesday evening. The Tar Heels improved to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in ACC play.
With the loss, the Demon Deacons dropped to 9-10 overall and a 1-5 mark in league action.
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The Tar Heels shot a season-high 60 percent from the floor to stifle any hopes for an upset bid. For the first time since the 2007-08 season, Carolina begins the ACC campaign with a 3-0 road record.
But maybe most encouraging for UNC head coach Roy Williams was the physicality displayed by his team in finishing baskets. The Tar Heels owned a commanding 50-26 edge in points in the paint.
“It was a weird night for us. We were a little low on personnel. We lose Theo [Pinson] and then at the end, lose Nate [Britt] too. Justin [Jackson] I think played the entire second half. I think Marcus [Paige] may have played the entire second half. We needed them to do some things like that. It’s a tough stretch we’re in,” Coach Williams says.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
UNC junior forward Brice Johnson turned in an impressive performance, leading the Tar Heels in scoring with 19 points on a sharp 8-11 shooting. And despite getting into foul trouble early, UNC sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks continued to battle, closing with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre led all scorers with 20 points and also tossed in six rebounds and six assists.
Not all the news was positive for Carolina. Freshman talent Theo Pinson went down with a bruised left foot and did not return to the game. Nate Britt also got banged up Wednesday night. Pinson and Britt join a laundry list of injured Tar Heels, including Joel Berry, Stilman White and Luke Davis.
The first half established the physical nature of the contest. A bruising battle for the boards resulted in Meeks picking up his fourth foul a few minutes before halftime.
The nip-and-tuck nature of the first 20 minutes of play saw the Tar Heels unable to establish more than a six-point lead at any stage – it just so happened the largest margin came at the halftime buzzer.
At intermission, the upset-minded Deacons trailed the Tar Heels 40-34.
The Tar Heels must have received a pointed locker room speech from Coach Williams. UNC started the second half on a torrid pace, making seven of the first eight shot attempts to establish a 54-40 advantage with 15:15 to play.
UNC’s offense was in full flow to the finish line, consistently knocking down shots against the Wake Forest zone defense.
Next up for the surging Tar Heels are the Seminoles of Florida State. FSU will visit Chapel Hill for a 2 p.m. tipoff Saturday in the Smith Center.
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 14-4 on the season and 4-1 in conference, will aim for its fourth ACC win in a row Wednesday evening inside Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.
Meanwhile, the upset-minded Wake Forest Demon Deacons, sitting at a 9-9 mark overall and a 1-4 record in league play, will be hoping to topple the Tar Heels.
***Listen to the story***
The Tar Heel road warriors will be searching for a 3-0 start in ACC enemy territory for the first time since the 2007-08 season. That year, Carolina burst out to an 8-0 league road record.
UNC head coach Roy Williams’ teams have historically been strong in hostile environments, sporting a 60-32 ACC road record in 12 seasons under the Hall of Famer.
But for the Carolina skipper, there’s a lot to work on with this year’s squad. For starters, Coach Williams says the Tar Heels need to play more consistent defensively and make better use of their size advantage to get to the foul line with tough, physical play in the paint.
“We’ve got to get a heck of a lot better on the defensive end of the floor. We knew they [Hokies] were going to shoot a lot of threes. They shot 29, but we shot 16 and 13 in the first half. If you look at the stat sheet in the first half, we shot zero free throws. That’s not the way a North Carolina team is supposed to play,” Coach Williams says.
In an encouraging sign for Carolina, the freshmen appear to be making strides.
Freshman Justin Jackson led UNC in scoring with 16 points last time out, but Jackson says the Tar Heels need to do a better job dictating the pace, which in signature Roy Williams style, means turning the game into a track meet.
“We love to run. We have so many athletic guys who can get out on the wings and run. Whenever we just have to score in the half court, it gets slowed down and can definitely get to you,” Jackson says.
UNC will need to keep an eye on Wake Forest’s junior big man Devin Thomas, who’s averaging 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
The battle on the boards should be something to watch for in this contest. The Deacons can hold their own in the rebounding department, ranking 15th in the nation, while the Tar Heels check in at No. 2 with 44.3 rebounds per contest.
But the team’s energy level is what sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks is choosing to focus on, if nothing else, because the coaching staff gets pretty angry with any sort of lethargy.
“It took us a while to get into it. I know that’s what really pisses the coaches off. They talked to us last year about coming out with energy and playing from the beginning – that’s something we have to do every game no matter what,” Hicks says.
The Deacons should be rested and raring to go with over a week of practice time since their last call to action – a heartbreaking overtime loss at Syracuse.
On the other hand, the Tar Heels should be motivated to produce a much cleaner performance following a sloppy, turnover-filled battle with Virginia Tech Sunday that had Coach Williams none too pleased.
“I don’t think we’re a stupid team, but every team plays stupid sometimes,” Coach Williams says.
UNC leads the all-time series with Wake Forest 156-66, but the Demon Deacons surprised the Tar Heels just last year with a 73-67 victory in the comfy confines of Joel Coliseum – always a tricky place to play.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-set-clash-wake-forest-winston-salem/
The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team sped away from Virginia Tech Sunday night in the Smith Center to claim a comfortable 68-53 victory and with it, improve to 14-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.
With the loss, the Hokies dropped to 8-9 overall and 0-4 in the ACC.
***Listen to the story***
Despite two referee corrections and three blood stoppages, Carolina used a balanced offense and an energetic defense to pull away from a struggling Virginia Tech squad.
But the postgame locker room was by no means full of smiles. The Tar Heels continued to struggle from the foul line, but the biggest issue for UNC head coach Roy Williams was the 17 turnovers.
Coach Williams was so disturbed by the sloppiness that he’s now holding a practice Monday night. The Tar Heels were previously scheduled to have the day off.
“J.P. [Tokoto] and Marcus [Paige] both turned it over way, way too much today just like the rest of our team did. Seventeen turnovers is not something good,” Coach Williams says.
***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***
Freshman Justin Jackson led the UNC scoring charge with 16 points, while junior Adam Smith had a team-high 11-point contribution for the Hokies.
Jackson, who also snagged a season-high seven rebounds, says he’s feeling more and more confident.
“To see the ball go through the net a couple times today, definitely helped a lot. I’m feeling more and more comfortable. That just comes with time, so I’m ready,” Jackson says.
The result of the contest was never really in doubt, but despite an overmatched opponent, the Tar Heels struggled to force the tempo at times and didn’t look sharp for lengthy stretches.
“I want to lay, but we’re not playing nearly as fast as I want them to play. I think we’re playing very average pace, and I’d like us to play faster for sure. But it is a challenge because the other team is very well coached,” Coach Williams says.
***Click here for the full game photo gallery***
On a positive note for UNC, Coach Williams had ample time to work his entire bench into the game, giving guys like Joel James and Jackson Simmons meaningful minutes.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead just under two minutes into the contest thanks to baskets by Brice Johnson, Jackson and a deep three-pointer by Paige.
But the Hokies started to drain shots of their own and withe 14:12 on thee first half clock, UNC held a slim 12-11 edge.
After a stoppage in play to clean up some profusive bleeding on the court, a couple emphatic slams by Johnson and J.P. Tokoto fired up the crowd and gave UNC a 23-16 advantage with 8:22 to play in the opening half.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams, jacket-less and animated, patrolled the sidelines with a zeal that will be welcome in the ACC for years to come. Not to mention, Coach Williams was sweating up a storm and was luckily, armed with myriad towels.
But the real reason for concern for Coach Williams was his team’s inability to knock down shots, even wide open attempts. Yes, UNC was playing spirited defense at times, but shots were also missed, some badly.
At the intermission, the Tar Heels sported a 34-21 lead thanks in large part to dominance on the boards. UNC held a 27-12 edge in rebounds.
A Tokoto steal and finish on the other end set the tone for the second half as UNC continued to play alert, heads-up defense to stifle the Hokie attack.
With 15:53 to play, the Tar Heels held a commanding 40-25 advantage.
From there, Johnson made his presence known with back-to-back finishes around the rim that induced a timeout from the Hokies, who then trailed by 17 points and could never mount a serious rally the rest of the way.
Next up for the Tar Heels is a midweek meeting at Joel Coliseum to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons Wednesday at 7 p.m.