UNC holds off ECU despite allowing season-high free throws

The Pirates attempted 27 free throws, including 23 attempts in the second half

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Coach Roy Williams calls out instructions to his team against ECU.

With nearly 14 minutes left North Carolina’s 93-87 win against East Carolina on Saturday, coach Roy Williams called a timeout to admonish his team for missing assignments and not playing the way he would like.

A fired-up Williams knelt on one knee and did everything in his power to urge his team to play better and amp up the defensive pressure.

“I’ve been here for three years. I’ve seen him a lot worse than that,” junior guard Reggie Bullock said. “I just feel like he was definitely trying to get us into the game, not let somebody swing at us without swinging back.

“But I just feel like we were giving them way too many open shots and not making the right rotations in the back.”

But, despite leading by as many as 18 in the first half, North Carolina allowed ECU to get as close as four points, creating most of that momentum from the charity stripe.

“It was big for us,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “Getting to the line more than them in this game is pretty big. We get there a different way, we have to get off the bounce, off the perimeter, off drives”

In the first half, UNC committed only four personal fouls and allowed ECU two trips to the free-throw line.

But in the second half, North Carolina couldn’t maintain the clean defense from the first half and committed 15 fouls, 10 of those coming in the first 11 minutes of the second half. Those fouls turned into 23 second-half free throw attempts for the Pirates.

The 27 total free throw attempts were the most by any of UNC opponents this season. The Pirates also converted 21 of those attempts for the most free throws made against the Tar Heels this season.

By comparison, the Tar Heels hit 12 of 14 attempts in the second half and 19 of 24 for the game.

Bullock became the first Tar Heel this season to foul out, but the Kinston, N.C., native attributes his fouls to the extra intensity that comes from playing a hometown school.

“I was just trying to bring that defensive intensity for our team, let them know that I was here to play,” Bullock said. “Team from back home with ECU, and those are a lot of my friends on that team. Some of my toughness just turned into fouls, but I still feel like I played great on defense.”

For a team that has traditionally tried to make more free throws than its opponents attempt, this game was a wake up call that the Tar Heels need to improve their defense.

“It was not the officials that gave them more opportunities to shoot more free throws than us,” Williams said. “It was because they were more aggressive and we didn’t do a very good job sliding our feet. If you play defense with intention then you don’t commit very many fouls.”

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