At some point before Wednesday night's game against Davidson, a certain memory from a season ago occupied the recesses of Melvin Scott's mind.
Back then, Scott started 21 games for Coach Matt Doherty's North Carolina men's basketball team. His first was the season's second game against -- who else? -- the Wildcats.
"In the back of my mind, you know, I scored 15 points last season against Davidson," Scott said, smiling at the thought. "And I was just thinking about that. I just wanted to come out and play aggressive and shoot with confidence."
The 6-foot-1 1/2 sophomore guard from Baltimore did that Wednesday night for the first time this season, once again dropping 15 points on the Wildcats in a season-high 28 minutes to help his team to a crucial non-conference win at the Smith Center.
It was the first time Scott, who averages 5.8 points and 18.3 minutes per game, broke double digits in scoring this season, and his five 3-pointers tied a career high.
"I felt like we really needed Melvin's shooting tonight," Doherty said following Wednesday's win.
For a team struggling to find scorers outside of wingman Rashad McCants, Scott's breakthrough could be key, particularly as the Tar Heels (9-4, 1-0 in the ACC) delve into the rest of the conference season without freshman center Sean May starting Saturday at Virginia.
Before May broke his left foot against Iona on Dec. 27, UNC had struggled from beyond the 3-point arc, knocking down just 31 percent of its shots. Although some shots were rushed, many open shots clanged off the rim for the Tar Heels.
Since May's injury, though, teams have tried to clog the lanes by playing UNC in a 2-3 zone defense. Without a strong interior presence to catch the ball down low, the Tar Heels had found themselves futilely passing around the zone, hoping to find an open shot on the perimeter.
But Wednesday, the Tar Heels were able to play more of an inside-out game against Davidson, which dared UNC to take outside shots.
And with point guard Raymond Felton doing a better job of penetrating the top of the zone and finding open shooters on the wings, the Tar Heels were able to get their share of good looks at the hoop.
No one benefited more from the packed-in zone than Scott, who knows what it will take to get himself more minutes and more chances to deliver instant offense for UNC.
"I just have to set my feet and be ready," Scott said. "That's pretty easy. Just hit shots."
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