UNC men's basketball team starts game with sense of urgency

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Desmond Hubert dunks after breaking through Wake Forest’s defense. The dunk was Hubert’s only two points for the night.

Throughout the season, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams has lamented that his team lacks a sense of urgency.

So, before UNC’s 87-62 rout of Wake Forest, he wrote two keys to the game on the white board — play hard on both ends of the court and sense of urgency.

The Tar Heels listened to Williams’ pregame pleas and channeled that sense of urgency in the opening minutes, forcing the Demon Deacons to turn the ball over in each of their first two possessions.

“Everybody had a sense of urgency,” guard Dexter Strickland said. “Coach Roy wrote it on the board before we went out there, that we have to rebound and that we have to have a sense of urgency.

“I think we did a great job of doing that tonight. We were aggressive from the start.”

On Wake Forest’s second possession of the game, junior forward Travis McKie dribbled the ball off of his leg and Strickland saw an opportunity.

The senior scooped up the loose ball, raced down the court and let the ball roll off his fingertips over the rim to drop through the net for the first field goal of the game.

During the first 20 minutes of action Wake Forest committed 13 turnovers — and the Tar Heels didn’t squander those opportunities.

The Tar Heels scored nearly 40 percent of their 47 first-half points from Wake Forest turnovers.

“Turnovers help us get out in transition,” point guard Marcus Paige said. “Transition makes things a lot more easy and fun, it gets the crowd involved.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on.”

North Carolina ended the game with 26 points coming from Wake Forest’s 21 turnovers.

“If you give a team that many easy baskets,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said, “it leads to a high shooting percentage, and shatters the confidence of our team, and it snowballs from there.”

The Tar Heels might have taken advantage of Wake Forest’s mishaps, but the Demon Deacons had plenty of chances to score off of North Carolina’s mishaps as well. UNC finished the game having turned the ball over 14 times.

Though UNC committed eight turnovers in the first half, Wake Forest converted those mistakes into only three points.

The Demon Deacons were more efficient in the second half, converting six UNC turnovers into nine points.

“It was the story in the first half,” Williams said. “We were running, getting the ball off the break … But we were turning it over too many times and gave them some opportunities.”

Williams will likely harp on his team to continue that sense of urgency so prominently on display in the first half.

But at least at the conclusion of Tuesday night’s ACC game, Williams’ can celebrate that his message got through to his players and translated onto the court in a big way.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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