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The Daily Tar Heel

Forte Shoots in Face of Scrutiny

Sure, it's great to be recognized as the best player on one of the nation's best teams. But it's not so great when that team loses, as North Carolina has in three of its last five contests.

Forte, UNC's star shooting guard, has shouldered much of the blame for UNC's recent slump. The criticism has come largely because of the activity of his right arm.

"When we win, it's fine," Forte said on Tuesday. "When we lose, I shoot too much."

Such has been the debate in Chapel Hill for the past few weeks. How many shots is too many for No. 40?

No one complained a bit when Forte fired 24 shots against Florida State on Feb. 22. After all, he made 15 of them on his way to 36 points.

But his 27 shots against Virginia three days later and 21 against Duke on Sunday? Overboard, according to many UNC fans.

So, just to be clear: It's all right for him to shoot a lot if the Tar Heels win, but it's not if they lose?

"He's been doing it all year -- there's no reason to point the fingers now," UNC point guard Ronald Curry said. "He's the greatest thing that has ever come through here when we were winning. Now that we've had three losses, he's been doing the same things that he's been doing, but everybody starts pointing fingers.

"A lot of people have jumped off the ship. There's no reason to start getting on that kid."

Curry is right in saying that Forte has played the same style throughout the season. Forte loves to shoot and score, and he won't apologize for it.

But in UNC's last five games, he has been doing even more of each. Forte is averaging 22.2 shots (compared with 15.8 in his first 23 games) and 25.6 points (up from 21.2).

It's not that Forte goes into games intending to shoot 20-plus times. He'll pass and cut in the early going to allow his teammates to get involved in the offense. But if no one gets anything going -- as has been the case recently -- he takes over.

Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

"When things aren't going well, he has the confidence to try to take things over," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "Sometimes when he does, it's great. When it isn't, people question him."

And they question the Tar Heels, who some say have become one-dimensional on offense. Forte doesn't believe that, and he wants his teammates to prove it this weekend at the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.

"It's trying to get other guys to step up -- I think that's the biggest thing," Forte said. "Me, personally, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, but I want someone else to step up as well."

If someone does, Forte is more than happy to take his 16 shots and spread the ball around. If not, he'll shoot more -- as often as he feels necessary to win.

And he's willing to accept whatever praise or criticism he might get.

It's the price of being Joseph Forte.

"It's a lot of pressure, but I welcome the pressure," Forte said. "I think it makes it more fun. There's more pressure on me to do well if I know someone is going to gripe about us losing and me shooting too much. I just look at it as motivation."

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