Friday, March 2, 2007

Recent funk bothers Tar Heels

Former North Carolina standout Mike O’Koren recalled his freshman season Friday as he tried to cheer up Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.
O’Koren told Williams about 1976-77, when North Carolina went 1-3 during a difficult stretch in January. Just when O’Koren was beginning to worry, the Tar Heels won 15 games in a row, reaching the NCAA championship game before losing to Marquette.
The current North Carolina team is at one of those worrisome points now, having lost two in a row and three of its past five. Williams joked that he goes home looking for something to kick.
"I don’t have any pets, so I just go home and kick the couch," he said. "The couch isn’t looking so good right now."
The Tar Heels (24-6, 10-5 ACC), who were supposed to be the ACC’s best team, might need a win in their regular-season finale against Duke on Sunday to secure a first-round bye to the ACC tournament.
Despite the slump, Williams called his current players a wonderful group of kids who are extremely gifted.
"My team is hurt," he said. "I think they’re a little shook. I think they’re a little alarmed. But make sure you put the word ‘little’ in front of both of those."
Williams used defending NCAA champion Florida to illustrate that North Carolina can pull out of its skid. The Gators concluded February with three straight losses last season before winning the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Florida won 17 in a row earlier this season but has lost three of its past four.
"It’s the same kids," Williams said. "It’s the same coach. They didn’t get all dumb that quickly. It’s college basketball. And I’ve got to get our kids to understand it’s college basketball. Those are things that happen. But don’t be willing to say, ‘That’s the only reason.’ Because our poor play contributes to that."

North Carolina had a harrowing flight home from Atlanta following Thursday night’s 84-77 loss at Georgia Tech.
Winds from the storm system passing through the Southeast hammered the chartered plane until it touched down on the runway. One player – center Tyler Hansbrough, who doesn’t like to fly – opted to return home by bus.
When the plane landed, Williams stood up and declared Hansbrough the smartest guy on the team.
"Some guys were laughing," Williams said of the flight, "and some guys were scared to death, holding on with both hands."

Williams said freshman point guard Tywon Lawson was back in good graces, pending his performance in practice leading up to the Duke game.
Lawson did not start at Georgia Tech because he had practiced poorly.
Wes Miller and Dewey Burke will join regular starter Reyshawn Terry as senior starters on Senior Day.

-- Ken Tysiac