Because games are few and far between for UNC during this part of its schedule –UNC’s four this month are the fewest the team has played in December since 1961 – there was a lot of time for the Tar Heels to reflect on their struggles against the Wolverines, which made for a long week.
“It’s been tough,” said Cameron Johnson, who led UNC and matched a season-high with 21 points against UNCW. “Coach has gotten after us on the court, in practice, in the film room, you name it. Not much happiness.”
Against the Seahawks, Johnson scored 13 of his 21 before halftime, as he was effective from 3-point range and off the dribble.
But as was the case this past week, there once again was not much happiness for UNC when halftime rolled around on Wednesday.
Having seen his team turn it over nine times, allow seven offensive rebounds and shoot seven fewer free throws than UNCW, Williams had a blunt message for his players.
“I told them we sucked,” Williams said.
Point taken, at least by Kenny Williams, who saw things the same way his head coach did.
“He’s not going to mince words, he’s not going to sugarcoat anything,” Kenny Williams said. “So those were his words.”
UNC flipped the switch after halftime. While Johnson continued to do what he did before the break, North Carolina as a team amped up the pressure defensively and became more efficient on offense by taking better care of the ball and attacking the rim.
UNCW committed 15 of its 25 turnovers during the game’s final 20 minutes. C.B. McGrath, the second-year Seahawk head coach who previously worked as an assistant under Roy Williams at UNC through the 2016-17 season, said his team “just stopped competing there for a little bit and then felt sorry for ourselves because we turned it over a few times.”
That lack of competitiveness morphed into a 30-3 run for UNC. While the Tar Heels were forcing turnovers on one end of the court, they were making sure to be just as aggressive on the other end. UNC took six times as many free throws in the second half (24) as it did during the first half (4).
“If you wanna play basketball, you’re supposed to go to the free throw line, hit free throws and keep the other team off the free throw line,” Roy Williams said. “We did that for a good bit of the first part of the second half.”
Senior forward Luke Maye, whose 11 points gave him his eighth double-digit scoring performance in nine games, said running the court well was key to UNC getting to the line more as the game progressed.
“Just trying to get to the basket, get fouled, get on the break and just draw contact … I think that was really big,” Maye said.
In total, four different Tar Heels scored in double-digits. At times UNC dominated the Seahawks, while looking out of sync during other stages of the game, especially during the first half.
Consistency is what this team’s missing, Kenny Williams believes.
“I don’t think we’ve put together forty minutes yet of consistent effort to the point we want it to be,” Kenny Williams said. “Once we get that it’s going to be hard to stop us on both ends.”
For Roy Williams, what he wants to see most is defensive consistency. During the final minute of Wednesday’s game, UNC’s reserves missed four 3-pointers, as Tar Heel fans watched intensely to see if their team could reach the 100-point mark, which in turn gives them discounted Bojangles' biscuits.
The UNC head coach has a new promotion idea for the fast-food restaurant.
“Let’s see if we can get biscuits for everybody if we play defense one possession a game,” Roy Williams suggested.
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