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The Daily Tar Heel

Senior battles slump

For much of the season, Jawad Williams was the steadying force for North Carolina.

While other individuals went through dry spells during the early stretches of the season, Williams was the most consistent Tar Heel, hitting double figures in the team’s first 19 games.

But since the calendar turned to March, Williams has struggled, reaching double digits just once in the last eight games.

The senior, who was third in the ACC in field goal percentage, has been particularly off during the NCAA Tournament, scoring just 18 points in four games on 8-of-22 shooting.

“One shot goes down, then you’re on the top of the world, you miss a shot, everyone’s all, ‘What’s wrong?’” said Williams, who was hampered in the tournament’s first weekend by a hip flexor and a knee injury.

“I can care less what I’m doing right now. I’m still playing; that’s the most important thing.”

The injuries most affected his jump shot.

After connecting on 39 percent of his 3-pointers in the regular season, Williams has missed his last seven attempts and has not made one since the opening-round victory against Oakland.

“He’s had a combination of things that have been bothering him for a couple of weeks,” said UNC coach Roy Williams. “I did tell him, ‘You’ve got to get your legs underneath you, get a little more bounce and get the ball up in the air.’”

But Jawad Williams, who said he has completely recovered from his injuries, will have to regain his offensive prowess for the Tar Heels to get past Michigan State on Saturday and play for the national championship.

The senior was the team’s leading scorer early in the season, but his average has dipped more than three points per game to 13.0, good for third place on the team.

“I’m concerned, no question about that, because his production has slipped,” Roy Williams said.

“We do need him, no question, to be more productive than he has been the last several games.”

Jawad Williams will likely be matched up with the Spartans’ Alan Anderson, a versatile 6-foot-6 senior who is playing power forward this year but has run the point in previous seasons.

Anderson is Michigan State’s second-leading scorer and rebounder and has averaged 14 points and seven rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

Anderson will be one of the more difficult matchups for the Tar Heels, but the Spartans present problems throughout their lineup.

Michigan State often employs a three-guard lineup, but all crash the boards, leading to the Spartans’ 7.3-per-game rebounding advantage on their opponents.

“I haven’t seen 27 tapes or anything like that,” Roy Williams said, “but the versatility of the whole lineup is something that is difficult for us.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

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