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Seventh Woods shows improvement as UNC men's basketball's season progresses

North Carolina guard Seventh Woods (21) attempts a shot against N.C. State on Jan. 8. He has cut down on his turnovers during ACC play.

North Carolina guard Seventh Woods (21) attempts a shot against N.C. State on Jan. 8. He has cut down on his turnovers during ACC play.

His biggest highlight was a right-handed rocket pass to fellow first-year Tony Bradley, who was wide open under the basket and dunked. After throwing the pass, Woods put his head down and ran back on defense, knowing his work on that possession was done.

“He had a good eight minutes there in Durham the other night, he really did,” head coach Roy Williams said Tuesday at UNC’s press conference.

The Duke game was the high point of a promising stretch from the young point guard. In his past three games, Woods has had seven assists and, more importantly, no turnovers.

Giveaways were a problem for Woods early on in the season — in North Carolina’s Dec. 4 game against Radford, for example, Woods had five turnovers and just one assist in 22 minutes of play. But he’s improving, fellow point guard Joel Berry said.

“The biggest thing for Seventh is just not turning over the ball,” Berry said. “He’s done a very good job of keeping the ball and getting his team shots in practice.”

Some of the turnovers are simple first-year mistakes, but others are the result of Woods’ athleticism oozing too much into his play. The turnovers from early in the season when Woods played too quickly or tried to do too much are the frustrating ones for UNC.

There are times to break out a spin move and attack the basket, as Woods has shown the ability to do. But there are also times to just dump the ball in the post to Kennedy Meeks or Isaiah Hicks. Woods is starting to discover that balance during ACC play.

It helps that the first-year guard is starting to turn the corner on some lingering injuries that impacted his play in the first half of the season.

“Finally his body is getting healthy,” Williams said. “He went through the end of January, the end of December, with, on a scale of one to 10, his body felt like a six. So he’s got it up to eight now. And we are still doing some things with him in the trainer’s room every day to try to get him completely healthy.”

Thanks in part to those injuries, and the learning curve that comes with being a point guard at UNC under Williams, Woods’ stats from this season don’t pop out at you. He’s averaged two points and 1.5 assists while shooting 31.9 percent from the field.

Also, his turnover rate is in the stratosphere at 37.4 percent, per kenpom.com. Berry’s mark of 19.2 percent is closer to the target he’ll want to aim for.

He is progressing, though, as his recent stretch of play illustrates. His improvement is a good sign for North Carolina’s bench, even if Williams wishes this uptick in performance came sooner.

“He’s not progressing at the rate I want him to because I wanted this the first game of the season,” Williams said. “But he is getting better.”

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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