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Wednesday January 27th

M. Basketball: Bench woes leave burden on Tar Heels

Ed Davis has been the Tar Heels? most productive bench player but" as a more defensively minded player averages only seven points per game.
Buy Photos Ed Davis has been the Tar Heels? most productive bench player but" as a more defensively minded player averages only seven points per game.

It's hard to find something about this edition of the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels that isn't the envy of the rest of college basketball.

One of the nation's top starting fives the reigning national player of the year and an offense explosive enough to fluster the most veteran of scorekeepers. Any coach would kill to be the caretaker of that kind of talent.

But there is one thing few would dream of trading with UNC coach Roy Williams: bench play.

Upon examining past results — even the score sheets from all those 20-plus-point blowouts — there's a troubling theme. UNC's starters are among the most efficient in the nation but once the reserves step in" production drastically drops.

""We haven't gotten the play off the bench the past couple of weeks that I would like to have" Williams said Friday during his weekly news conference. But we're going to keep putting them out there and if they play well" they get put out there again.""

The most problematic area this season has been the bench's inability to score. In the past Williams had an explosive sixth man" and that player had the ability to carry the scoring burden on their own while starters rested.

Now UNC turns to defensive-minded Ed Davis first off the bench" leaving the team without a second unit that easily can extend leads.

""We haven't been getting the scoring coming off the bench that most of our teams have had" Williams said Monday during his weekly teleconference.

Since we've been here we've been bringing Marvin Williams off the bench we've been bringing Danny Green off the bench" and they've been adding some great things to us offensively.""

Through 21 games" reserves account for about 18.6 percent of the offense — the lowest number for a bench in the six years Williams has been at UNC.

But that percentage takes into account the garbage-time points from players who never see meaningful minutes. When counting only Davis Bobby Frasor Larry Drew II and Will Graves the percentage shrinks to about 16.6.

Though Williams said he's not concerned with how much the bench scores" history shows that national championship teams generally have a solid bench scorer.

Nine of the past 12 title winners boasted a reserve with a higher average than Davis' 7.0 points per game.

""We just haven't been contributing as much as we'd like to" Frasor said after the N.C. State game. As far as scoring I think a lot of us are a little timid" even when (Graves is) coming in the game.""

To make matters worse" this wasn't supposed to be an issue. North Carolina started the year set as one of the deepest teams in the nation.

But then Tyler Zeller broke his left wrist against Kentucky and Marcus Ginyard still hasn't come back from his surgically repaired foot. As Williams said" that's a loss of two of UNC's top six or seven players.

 ""I laughed in the fall when everybody was talking about" was I worried about having too many players Williams said. I said ‘No" I just want to make sure I had enough.'

""I think my worry was more on mark as opposed to the ones worried about too many.""

That doesn't mean the Tar Heels are pressing a panic button. The starters have carried the scoring burden for 21 games" and UNC's won 19 of them.

Tonight Maryland comes to Chapel Hill and the Terrapins don't look like a team capable of exploiting UNC's bench woes either.

But at some point down the road possibly in the NCAA Tournament UNC might get in foul trouble or it might not get enough from its starting five. Then the Tar Heels will turn to the bench for help" and it will be seen if the reserves can raise their level of play.

""It definitely would help if our bench came in and scored some points" Green said.

But it doesn't make a difference to us. If we're putting points on the board" we're putting points on the board.""

 

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.


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