The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday April 12th

UNC men’s basketball prepares for struggling Wake Forest

The University of North Carolina Tar Heels played the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, February 6, 2011.
Buy Photos The University of North Carolina Tar Heels played the Florida State Seminoles on Sunday, February 6, 2011.

North Carolina’s men’s basketball team has no four-year starters. Only two players in its nine-man rotation has played in the NCAA Tournament in blue and white.

But coach Roy Williams knows his team is experienced enough to treat its next opponent like any other.

“My team is a very immature team in a lot of ways, but I think that they will have some respect for Wake,” Williams said. “I don’t think that they’ll take them lightly. I think they’ll come to practice (Monday) and work really hard to try to get prepared to play.”

The Demon Deacons (8-17, 1-9 ACC) have struggled this season to say the least. Wake Forest is one of two teams in the ACC that averages fewer points than its opponents. The other is Virginia.

But Wake’s margin is by far the largest. The Demon Deacons are outscored by an average of 8.1 points per game, whereas the Tar Heels (18-6, 8-2) have outscored their opponents by an average of 10.3 points per game.

But Wake Forest isn’t devoid of talent, and it has a number of players from whom it can expect scoring. The Demon Deacons are the only team in the ACC to have five players averaging 10 or more points per game.

That’s something Williams said his team can’t afford to overlook tonight.

“If there’s five averaging double figures there’s not one that you should focus on, because all five of them can hurt you,” Williams said.

“I’ve always felt that it is a difficult team to prepare for …. What it boils down to is everybody individually has to do a great job of guarding their man without having to have too much help.”

And on offense, the Tar Heels have plenty to work on, particularly beyond the 3-point line.

In each of the Tar Heels’ last two games, they shot 14 percent from the 3-point line. But in the two games before that, the Tar Heels shot 40 and 52 percent from long range.

“I’m surprised by the lack of consistency, because we make a lot of shots in practice,” Williams said. “I think Duke and Clemson both did a nice job of challenging those 3-point shots.”

Williams said the difference could just be taking smarter shots.

“Against Florida State we had two 3-point shots that were blocked, which means we shouldn’t have been shooting them in the first place,” Williams said. “It takes special players to make guarded threes.”

Despite shooting a poor 3-point percentage against Clemson, the Tar Heels were able to make crucial plays down the stretch to grab the win — one of many things that has improved over the course of the season.

But the Tar Heels have made tons of improvements. Since starting the season 5-3, the Tar Heels have won 14 of their last 17 games, and UNC is 11-2 in its last 13 games with losses to Georgia Tech and Duke.

But it was after that 20-point beatdown by the Yellow Jackets that UNC seemed to really pick it up, and Williams hopes the Tar Heels continue to improve.

“I thought this team would get better and better as the season went along and I really believed that,” Williams said. “And, for the most part, our guys are improving …. It’s a steady process for us, and I’ve felt that this team would be that way, and so far they have been.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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