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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC looking to restore confidence for ACC tournament

The Tar Heels start tournament action Friday at 9 p.m.

In Saturday night’s loss to Duke, it seemed like the Blue Devils immediately derailed the momentum that the North Carolina men’s basketball team had built in the six-game winning streak coming into the regular season finale.

Now the Tar Heels are faced with the task of refocusing and regaining their poise for the ACC Tournament this week in Greensboro. The tournament begins Thursday but the Tar Heels first game will be Friday night at 9 against the winner of the Florida State-Clemson game.

Coach Roy Williams isn’t too concerned about rebuilding his team’s confidence because he has seen how well his game can play when they are at their best.

“I think as a coach you are always worried about (confidence) but at the same time, I don’t think it was false confidence,” Williams said Monday. “I think we were playing pretty well. I don’t think you can let one game crush you and lead to another one and another one and another one. That does happen with some teams that struggle quite a bit, but we had been playing pretty well and hopefully we’ll handle it that way.”

The Tar Heels have attributed the poor shooting performance on Saturday to a lack of poise and allowing the Blue Devils to dictate the game. Williams said that they haven’t been focused on shooting in practice for those reasons.

Instead he’s been trying to improve in each facet of the game.

“We know what we can do,” sophomore P.J. Hairston said. “We know that we can play with poise and overcome adversity like we have with this lineup before. Nobody believed that it would work and we proved everyone wrong. We’ve been down but we’ve also fought back and built back up a lot of confidence.”

The Tar Heels now have to ensure that those confidence levels are back to where they were before the Duke game. Earlier in the season, North Carolina struggled to bounce back and Hairston referenced the Butler and Indiana games as examples.

But confidence levels aside, the Tar Heels are certain that they are more mentally tough than they were in the early stages of the season and that bodes well for a quick turnaround.

“We’ve had some games like this earlier in the season and we failed to bounce back,” freshman point guard Marcus Paige said. “I think the progress we’ve shown, especially through the second half of ACC play, has shown that we can bounce back from a game like that and go back to the way we were playing when everyone is moving the ball, taking great shots and stuff like that.

“We had kind of a letdown game, especially with all the hype and everything around the game but I think we’ll be able to bounce back just fine.”

For Paige, who is the least experienced player in the starting lineup, he’s not concerned about the Duke loss affecting the team’s confidence.

“I think we’re a confident bunch right now despite that loss we took on Saturday but we know that they’re going to be hungry to beat us because we are 2-0 against Florida State and 1-0 against Clemson,” Paige said. “So I think we’re confident but I think we understand that we’re going to get their best shot because they are trying to play their way into more postseason opportunities and then again so are we.”

Though it’s not the big dance, it’s still March basketball and it will be important for the Tar Heels to exhibit some resilience in preparation for the NCAA Tournament. According to P.J. Hairston, winning is also important.

“We want to come to the ACC and just play hard and play together and play with high confidence and playing with poise,” Hairston said. “Everyone wants to win their conference tournament because that leads to the NCAA with this confidence that’s just through the roof. Of course we want to win, but I’m pretty sure all those other teams want to win it too.”

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