If Williams has turnovers on the mind every night when he goes to bed, he’s had a few nightmares already this season. And he’ll likely have many more if the trend continued against N.C. State extends into the rest of the season.
So far on the year, turnovers have been a major issue for a UNC team led by a first-year point guard. The Tar Heels have turned the ball over 10 times or more in all but one game so far this season, with a win over UCLA in November as the lone exception.
In front of a packed Tuesday night crowd, it didn’t take long for the faucet to be loosened, giving way to a flow of turnovers once again both early and often.
Just 77 seconds into the contest, Cameron Johnson gave up the first turnover of the game. It didn’t matter much then. The defense compensated for bad passes by keeping the Wolfpack from scoring until nearly a quarter of the way through the half.
Yet the turnovers persisted. By halftime, with a five point lead, UNC had 13 turnovers — already nearing its turnovers per game average (14.5) this season.
On the first possession of the second half, it added another to that total with a careless pass that led to a 3-pointer on the other end by Markell Johnson. The rest of the way, it would add nine more, reopening the door for a comeback from N.C. State late in the contest.
While the prevalence of turnovers has been frustrating, Kenny Williams thinks the team can easily fix its problems.
“We just need to be more careful,” Kenny Williams said. “We can’t let a press speed us up, and I think that’s what they did tonight. We’ve just got to be more careful with the ball and cherish it a little bit more.”
The turnovers might be the fault of the team’s youth this season. Against N.C. State, four underclassmen, Coby White, Nassir Little, Garrison Brooks and Leaky Black saw significant minutes.
The Tar Heels’ Hall of Fame head coach told his team as much after the game, according to Black.
“Obviously he was pretty mad about (the turnovers),” Black said, “but he was just saying we’ve got to be more mature about stuff like that. Get people in the right spots, we work on that stuff every day.”
Mature — and good — teams figure out how to cut down on mistakes. That will be one of the biggest challenges for UNC moving forward.
Johnson noted that every single team North Carolina will face the rest of the year will make forcing turnovers a major focus. And if not addressed, that can have disastrous consequences for the ceiling of any team, even one loaded with potential.
“We need to handle it better, we need to handle the press better and just cut down on little mistakes,” Johnson said. “But I think we can do that.”
@DTHSports | firstname.lastname@example.org