Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Indiana closes 1st half on strong run, leads UNC 46-37

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - North Carolina played Indiana even for most of the first half but the top-ranked Hoosiers closed on a strong run that gave them a 46-37 halftime lead at Assembly Hall.

Cody Zeller, the younger brother of former Tar Heels' forward Tyler Zeller, made a shot as time expired to give Indiana its nine-point lead, which is tied for the Hoosiers' largest of the game.

As expected, Zeller has been a force inside. Both he and Victor Oladipo, the junior guard, lead Indiana with 13 points. James Michael McAdoo leads the Heels with 10 points.

UNC kept it close throughout the first half, but it wasn't pretty. The Heels shot 48.5 percent during the half, but had assists on just six of their 16 field goals - a sign that UNC improvised often.

The game was tied at 31 with about four minutes to play in the half before Indiana closed the half on a 15-6 run. Dexter Strickland, the UNC senior guard, helped start that run with an intentional foul on Oladipo, who made both of his free throws. Indiana didn't take full advantage of the foul, but Zeller had three dunks in the final two-and-a-half minutes.

Those plays, as well as UNC's ineffectiveness on the other end, ignited a loud home crowd.

Indiana is shooting just 46.3 percent, but the Hoosiers have scored 16 points of UNC's eight turnovers, and Indiana has also outscored the Heels 8-4 on fast-break points.

- Andrew Carter

Monday, November 26, 2012

UNC guard P.J. Hairston to miss game against Indiana

CHAPEL HILL -- P.J. Hairston, the North Carolina sophomore guard who suffered a knee injury during practice on Sunday, will not play in the Tar Heels' game at top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday.

Hairston is not traveling with the team to Indiana, and there is no timetable for his return, UNC announced in a statement on Monday night.

Hairston, UNC's third-leading scorer, suffered his injury during a dribbling drill on Sunday, teammate Dexter Strickland said. Doctors diagnosed Hairston with a mild sprain in his left knee.

Hairston's injury was especially disappointing to coach Roy Williams, who found success using a small lineup during the Maui Invitational. Hairston in that small lineup played as a power forward, though offensively he remained on the perimeter and created mismatches against larger, slower defenders.

"And so that takes out part of our opportunity to go small because he's the only guy that's worked at the four," Williams said. "And nobody else has."

Hairston's absence on Tuesday night will likely translate into more playing time for Leslie McDonald, who has averaged 8.8 points in about 15 minutes of playing time per game.

- Andrew Carter

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Duke leads Louisville 36-28 at halftime in Battle 4 Atlantis final

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - The first meeting of Duke and Louisville since the 1986 National Title game has not disappointed, and after one half 36-28.

No. 2 Louisville has alternated between man-to-man and zone defense. So far, the Blue Devils shooters have been able to hit their shots, as No. 5 Duke is shooting 45.5 percent from the field. The Cardinals are hitting their shots at a 39.3 clip.

Mason Plumlee picked up his second foul with 8:34 remaining in the game, and he went to the bench. A few seconds later, Seth Curry crashed to the ground as he was attempting to drive the lane, and the senior sat up wincing in obvious pain. He stretched out his legs before standing, and he made his two ensuing free throws. After the second, though, he was replaced by Alex Murphy.

Both Plumlee and Curry were back on the floor two minutes later. While Plumlee played the last five minutes without picking up another fouls, Kelly was whistled for his third with 1:57 left in the half. Duke was called for nine first-half fouls, while Louisville was whistled four times.

Louisville is playing without starting center Gorgui Dieng, who injured his wrist Friday against Missouri. His replacement, Zach Price, has scored four points in his first career start, matching his season-high.

Seth Curry hit an off-balance 3-pointer just before the buzzer to extend Duke's lead to eight points. Rasheed Sulaimon leads Duke with 11 points.

- Laura Keeley

Friday, November 23, 2012

Duke holds narrow 29-28 lead over VCU at half

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - Duke has handled VCU's trademark "havoc" defense well, and the Blue Devils have a 29-28 lead going into halftime.

The Rams, who have the word HAVOC printed across the back of their warmup shirts, pride themselves on their full-court pressure and heavy ball pressure, which has led them to force an average of 20 turnovers per game.

The Blue Devils, though, haven't been rattled by the pressure and turned the ball over just three times in the first half. Mason Plumlee was used to help bring the ball up the floor (VCU's big men don't guard on the ball well), and Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton have used long passes to push the tempo and break the press. As a team, Duke has seven assists.

The shots aren't falling regularly for Duke, though. After shooting 8-of-10 from beyond the arc in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis against Minnesota, the Blue Devils are just x-of-xx from 3-point range tonight. Duke is shooting 39.3 percent from the floor. VCU, though, is shooting worse, at a 32.3 percent clip.

VCU jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead and outhustled Duke to long rebounds, prompting Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski to take an early timeout. Duke used a 14-2 run midway through the half to take its first lead. Rasheed Sulaimon leads Duke with nine points, and the three seniors--Ryan Kelly, Plumlee and Seth Curry--have 13 points combined.

- Laura Keeley

Monday, November 19, 2012

UNC's Roy Williams on Maryland leaving ACC: If they feel that is best then see you

LAHAINA, Hawaii - North Carolina coach Roy Williams said on Monday that he was "stunned" and "shocked" by the news that Maryland would be leaving the ACC to join the Big Ten.

"I'm an old ACC guy," Williams said after his team's 95-49 victory against Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the Maui Invitational. "I've been around a long time. I've been around probably longer than the league has, I don't know. So I was shocked by it and didn't see it coming whatsoever."

Williams referenced the ACC's $50 million exit fee and said, "It will be interesting to see what happens there."

"If they have that extra money, maybe they could pass it around to some other people kind of thing," Williams said. "But it's strange to me. What's going on with college athletics is strange to me. I mean, give me a break - the Big East goes all the way to freaking Hawaii. Or close, anyway."

Williams throughout his coaching career has competed extensively against Maryland. He graduated from UNC in 1972 and then was a Tar Heels assistant coach under Dean Smith from 1978-88.

"I'm one of those guys that if somebody doesn't think that my house is the right place to be, then go ahead and leave," Williams said. "I've got no problem with that. So for me, it's a shock. That'd be the biggest thing. I hate to see them go but if they feel like that's what best for them then, see you."

- Andrew Carter

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Duke closes first half on a big run for a 52-30 lead over Florida Gulf Coast

DURHAM - Duke struggled to find its offensive rhythm initially, but in the final six minutes the Blue Devils went on a 23-0 run to close the half with a 52-30 lead.

Florida Gulf Coast was done in thanks in large part to 19 first-half turnovers, which resulted in 27 Duke points. Mason Plumlee led Duke with 14 points, including a 6-of-7 clip from the free throw line, and Rasheed Sulaimon also reached double figures with 13 points as well.

After back-to-back 3-pointers from Quinn Cook, who started for the first time this season, Kelly converted two free throws to make it 34-30 Duke. Plumlee went to the line on the next possession after corralling his own offensive rebound. He made the first shot and missed the second, but Kelly grabbed the rebound and converted the lay-in, drawing his own foul in the process. He completed the three-point play to make it 38-30 Duke with 4:08 remaining.

Another offensive rebound converted by Kelly, followed by back-to-back 3s from Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton, gave Duke a 46-30 lead.

While Duke entered the season aiming to center the offense around Mason Plumlee in the low post, old habits can be hard to break.

The Blue Devils attempted 20 3-pointers--or 59 percent of their first-half shots from the field. Duke made seven of those 3s, with Sulaimon leading the team with 9 points from behind the arc.

Alex Murphy, a preseason starter, was the only healthy scholarship player not to see action for Duke.

- Laura Keeley

Friday, November 16, 2012

W. Charlotte's Kennedy Meeks picks UNC: Thoughts, reaction

CHAPEL HILL — Big news from a big recruit (both figuratively and literally): Kennedy Meeks, the West Charlotte High center who is considered one of the best prospects in the class of 2013, announced on ESPNU tonight that he would play at North Carolina.

Meeks chose the Tar Heels over Georgetown. You can read the story about it here.

Some reaction …

--Meeks, whom ESPN ranks as the 20th-best prospect in the nation – and the No. 2 center – joins a UNC recruiting class that already includes power forward Isaiah Hicks and point guard Nate Britt. Hicks, from Webb High in Oxford, is ranked the 18th-best prospect in the country, according to ESPN. Britt, a Washington, D.C., native who is playing this season at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., is the No. 52 prospect in the country, according to ESPN’s rankings.

--Obviously, landing Meeks is huge for the Tar Heels, whose 2013-14 frontcourt looks quite formidable – even if James Michael McAdoo decides to leave school for the NBA. Assuming McAdoo goes – and that’s a reasonable assumption – UNC would still have Joel James and Brice Johnson, both of whom are off to promising starts in their freshman seasons, and Hicks and Meeks. The James/Johnson dynamic is similar to that of Hicks and Meeks. James and Meeks are the larger, more imposing players, while Johnson and Hicks are quicker and more agile. All four guys should complement one another well.

--Had a chance earlier today to speak with Dave Telep, the ESPN national recruiting analyst who was on the set tonight with Meeks announced his decision. Telep was kind enough to share his opinion on Meeks and on what his commitment would mean to UNC.

Telep on Meeks: “He’s one of those guys that if you’re going to play a center, a true center, then you want to have this guy because he absolutely owns his area. He rebounds the ball with authority and is a terrific passer. And he’s got an incredibly good touch around the bucket. I just think Kennedy Meeks is one of those guys that’s almost disappearing in college basketball. You can throw him the ball in the lane and with his back to the basket he’s just a really good player.”

Telep on what Meeks’ commitment would mean to the Tar Heels: “If you really look at that, start look at who has better frontcourts in the country than that. You’d have Isaiah Hicks, who can be a prototypical frontcourt player for Roy Williams … and then you’d have two guys are different than each other, can play off of each other – and Hicks would be that slender, shot-blocking floor-runner. And Meeks would be that anchor on the inside.”

--Meeks won a state championship at the Smith Center during his sophomore year of high school, and he has ties to North Carolina simply because he grew up here. Still, his commitment to UNC might have come as a bit of a surprise given how hard Georgetown recruited him. Said Telep: “I think that Georgetown showed they saw the value in him early, and just really dropped the hammer on him, and went all in on him. I think that they recruited him exceptionally hard. So it’s not easy to get a top 20 player out of the state of North Carolina, and I think they knew that going in. But they just saw a fit that was so good for their offense.” So credit Tar Heels coach Roy Williams and his staff with the job they did recruiting Meeks. It was never going to be easy beating out Georgetown.

--Last but not least, the Charlotte Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. did an admirable job with this story on Meeks. Be sure to check that out.

- Andrew Carter

Sunday, November 11, 2012

UNC 80, Florida Atlantic 56: The look back

CHAPEL HILL — Things are about to become more difficult for North Carolina. But the Tar Heels are 2-0 after their 80-56 victory against Florida Atlantic on Sunday. Let’s get to it … the look back:

Three things to take away from UNC’s victory:

1. There’s Reggie.

Those UNC fans who might have been concerned after Reggie Bullock’s five-point performance in the season-opener can relax. Bullock scored seven of the Heels’ first nine points on Sunday, and his 3-pointer in with about seven minutes to play put UNC ahead by 21. The Tar Heels are going to need Bullock to be a consistent scorer, and he was that against the Owls. He finished with 16 points and made six of his seven attempts from the field. His only miss came from behind the 3-point line, where he was 3-for-4.

2. The free-throw shooting was bad – but it’s not time to panic (yet).

Yes, the Heels were ugly from the free-throw line today, where they made just 12 of 27 attempts (and only 4 of 14 in the first half). But sometimes teams go through weird shooting slumps at the line, and maybe this was just one of those games for UNC. Better to get out of the system now then suffer through these kinds of issues in February at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Of course, it’s possible UNC might just be a bad free throw shooting team. Roy Williams says that’s not the case. We’ll see.

3. This is a good start – but now we’ll learn a lot more about this team.

Seems like UNC’s first two games went about as expected. Some good things, some bad things, some sloppiness, some highlights, some ugly play mixed with some pretty play and it all added up to a couple of lopsided victories against overmatched competition. The Tar Heels didn’t play particularly well on Sunday, nor did they on Friday. But you get the sense they needed to grind through these kinds of games as part of their learning process. Now, during the next week and a half, we’ll start to learn what kind of team this really is. First up is a tough game at Long Beach State on Friday, followed by the trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. Followed by … yes, the game at No. 1 Indiana. This should be a fun stretch.

By the numbers:

6 – assists for freshman point guard Marcus Paige, who didn’t have an assist on Friday.

16 – points UNC scored off of offensive rebounds.

17 – shots attempted by James Michael McAdoo. No other UNC player attempted more than nine.

23 – assists for the Tar Heels, who moved the ball better.

24 – offensive rebounds for UNC.

39 – points UNC received from its bench.

41 – points UNC received from its starters.

42 – points for the Heels in the paint, where they outscored Florida Atlantic 42-12.

UNC player of the game: McAdoo. He finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Good chance that Williams can get used to the whole double-double thing. McAdoo had 26 points and 14 rebounds against Gardner-Webb.

Observations and thoughts:

--After finishing his first game without an assist, Paige had a game-high six assists on Sunday. Paige said there was a “big, big difference” in how comfortable  he felt on Sunday compared to Friday.

--Desmond Hubert, the sophomore forward, remained in the Tar Heels’ starting lineup on Sunday. But as was the case on Friday, freshman Joel James started the second half in place of Hubert. Williams said he hadn’t planned to start James for the second half of either game, but that it worked out that way because of James’ production in both first halves. Williams said that starting position is still up for grabs.

--The Heels did a nice job defensively against Florida Atlantic freshman guard Stefan Moody, a Parade All-American who arrived on campus as perhaps the Owls’ most heralded freshman in school history. Moody finished with eight points, but was 3-for-12 from the field, with six turnovers.

--McAdoo, who attempted 20 shots on Friday night, again attempted more shots – by far – than any of his teammates. McAdoo was 7-for-17 from the field. No other UNC player attempted more than nine shots.

--I understand the sponsorship and the money involved, but does anyone else think it’s a bit silly that today’s game was branded as part of the Maui Invitational? Regardless of the outcome today, UNC was already bound for Maui next week. FAU never had any path to play for the Maui championship. So why make this a part of the invitational? What’s the point?


“I did lose it a couple of times out there today because of just silly mistakes. But the two guys I was yelling at, it was their second college game. But I think if you just allow freshmen to make mistakes and don’t correct them, [or don’t] sometimes correct them in a very vigorous manner, they don’t remember it.” –Roy Williams

“That’s one of those silly questions and I don’t mean that the way it sounds but if I knew what the crap the problem was I would have already fixed it.” – Roy Williams, on what went wrong at the free-throw line.

“I believe I wasn’t looking for my shot enough. I wasn’t being aggressive enough [against Gardner-Webb]. I had a couple of open looks but the ball, like if I catch it [and it doesn’t] feel right, I just swing it to the next player. But today, the threads came to me and I just shot the ball.” –Reggie Bullock

Up next:

The Tar Heels travel to California to play Long Beach State on Friday at 11 p.m.

- Andrew Carter

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ten questions surrounding UNC at the start of basketball season

CHAPEL HILL — It’s here. Basketball season is here. Finally. It never really goes away in Chapel Hill, but it returns tonight when North Carolina begins the season at the Smith Center against Gardner-Webb.

Around this time a year ago, the Tar Heels began the 2011-12 season with national championship aspirations. Entering this season, though, who knows what to expect? I wrote some about that in a story we ran earlier in the week, which you can read right here.

The headline tells the story: “More questions than answers” for UNC.

I found insightful Roy Williams’ quote at the bottom of the story. Williams said:

“The easiest way to say it is this team has got to play as close to their potential as they possibly can to be successful. We’re not going to be like last year – well, if this don’t work then (Tyler Zeller) will score anyway or Harrison (Barnes) will get a shot or John (Henson) will block a shot and then Kendall (Marshall) will find somebody on a break. This team’s got to play as close to their potential as they possibly can.”

In a piece that ran today, we examined several questions that will face Duke, UNC and N.C. State in their season-openers and, likely, beyond. Here are those questions, and others, that surround the Tar Heels at the start of the season. At the end of the season, we’ll take a look back and see how UNC answered each of these:

--With an abundance of perimeter players and shooters, can North Carolina (finally) become a good shooting team?

UNC coach Roy Williams thought he had a capable shooting team a season ago and, he said after the Tar Heels’ exhibition victory against Shaw, “I think this is a team that’s going to be even better than that.” Problem was, UNC rarely proved it was a good shooting team last season. The Tar Heels made just 33.4 percent of their 3-point attempts, which ranked eighth in the ACC. In conference games, UNC was second-to-last in the league in 3-point shooting. Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland all believe they are good shooters, and now is the time to prove it.

--How prepared is freshman Marcus Paige to run the offense at point guard?

Williams has been in this position plenty of times before, starting a freshman point guard. He did at Kansas, with Jacque Vaughn and others. He’s done it at UNC, with Bobby Frasor and Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall. And now, Williams is confident that Paige is ready to run his offense. Paige isn’t as pure of a passing point guard as Marshall was, but few are. Paige will provide more of a consistent scoring threat, but it’s a given he’ll struggle at times as he adjusts to the college game. The most important question might be how well he responds to those challenges.

--How does UNC go about generating offense in the post?

Williams’ best offenses at UNC have benefited from productive post players. Sean May. Tyler Hansbrough. Tyler Zeller. Outside of sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo, UNC enters the season without a proven presence in interior. And McAdoo, for all his positives, isn’t a traditional back-to-the-basket player. Williams said on Thursday that his starting lineup still hadn’t been set, outside of McAdoo, Paige, Strickland and Bullock. If the 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman Joel James doesn’t start tonight, it’s likely only a matter of time before he does. His size and skills offer UNC its best chance for offense in the interior.

And more questions:

--Can James Michael McAdoo take the next step and become a consistently productive offensive player? We all remember McAdoo’s impressive play in the ACC and NCAA tournaments last March. But now McAdoo will be the focus of opposing defenses, as well as a focal point of the Tar Heels’ offense. Is he ready?

--Will Reggie Bullock prove he’s more than a shooter – and can he emerge as an aggressive scorer that the Tar Heels need? Bullock effectively played his role – first as a sixth man, then as a starter – last season. Now he’ll be asked to penetrate and score far more often than he has in the past.

--How will Dexter Strickland handle added responsibility in the offense? Strickland’s defensive prowess has been well documented but he enters the season with a desire to prove that he’s more than just an outstanding perimeter defender. He wants to prove he can score, too. Can he do that while playing in the confines of the offense?

--Down by a point in the final seconds, who takes the last shot? Is it Bullock? McAdoo? Someone else? The Tar Heels don’t enter the season with a clear candidate to take the last shot in critical late-game situations. Who becomes that player?

--After sitting out a year, what can we expect from Leslie McDonald? McDonald believed he was poised for a breakout junior season until suffering a knee injury in the summer of 2011. Finally, he’s back. Like Bullock and Strickland, McDonald has an opportunity to play a larger role in the Tar Heels’ offense.

--Will P.J. Hairston rediscover his shooting stroke – and keep it? Hairston arrived on campus with the reputation as a dangerous shooter, and he was at the start of last season. A confidence-sapping slump, though, lasted most of the second half of last season. Hairston says he solved his mechanical problems during the summer.

--Which under-the-radar player emerges to become a key contributor? To reach its potential, UNC will likely need someone we’re not immediately thinking about to play a significant role this season. Will it be sophomore forward Desmond Hubert? Sophomore forward Jackson Simmons? Freshmen Brice Johnson or J.P. Tokoto?

Answers start coming tonight …

--Andrew Carter

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Roy Williams recovering after surgery

CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams continues to recover from the surgery he underwent in September to remove a tumor from his kidney but, he said on Thursday, “I don’t think I’m 100 percent.”
Then again, Williams said, “I don’t have to be.”

“I’m not jumping and running and rebounding and blocking out and things like that,” he said. “But I’m trying to be very cautious, because we have six games in a 13-day period. And [doctors] want to make sure that I don’t get run down and do something crazy and all of a sudden have a setback.”

After experiencing discomfort in early September, Williams made an appointment with a doctor. Tests discovered tumors on both of his kidneys, and he had the one on his right kidney removed during a procedure at UNC Hospitals.

Doctors determined the tumor to be benign, and a biopsy determined the tumor on his left kidney to be the same. When UNC began practice last month, Williams experienced discomfort at times – especially when he became more animated while during teaching moments.

But these days, Williams said, “Even when I’ve gone wacko it hasn’t been something that’s hurt me.”
Williams said doctors last Wednesday cleared him to resume exercising. They told him to “take it easy for quite a while,” Williams said. And so he has been trying.

“Those are the kind of things that they’re more concerned about,” Williams said of strenuously exercising. “I haven’t taken my jacket off in practice and thrown it or anything like that, either. So hopefully I don’t have to do something like that.”

--Andrew Carter

UNC coach Roy Williams still deciding starting lineup

CHAPEL HILL — One day before North Carolina begins the season here on Friday night against Gardner-Webb, four-fifths of the Tar Heels’ starting lineup appears set.
“I feel fairly comfortable about Marcus [Paige] and Dexter [Strickland] and Reggie [Bullock] and James Michael [McAdoo],” UNC coach Roy Williams said earlier today. “But that fifth spot, from one day to the next, I change quite a bit.”
That fifth spot, of course, represents a post position – and perhaps the Tar Heels’ only true post position. Paige, the freshman, will start his first collegiate game at point guard. Strickland and Bullock are both guards who will play on the wings. And while McAdoo is UNC’s most proven post player, he’s more of an inside-outside type who isn’t exactly a typical back-to-the-basket power forward.
So that leaves a wide opening – literally and figuratively – in the middle.
Desmond Hubert, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward who played sparingly a season ago, started in UNC’s exhibition victory against Shaw. But Joel James, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman, gave perhaps the most impressive performance of the Heels’ otherwise sluggish effort in the exhibition. James has only been playing organized basketball since his sophomore year of high school, but he already has developed an effective repertoire of moves, and his footwork is sound for his size.
Still, James apparently hasn’t earned the starting job. At least not yet.
“As we’re sitting here right now, I still do not who I’m going to start,” Williams said. “And I really don’t. And the staff, we talked about it in a staff meeting this morning … I really don’t [know who will start]. I’m waiting for somebody to step up and say, ‘I’m going to deserve that.’ But it may be OK if it’s not.
“You know, we may change the lineup throughout the course of the pre-conference season, too.”
Few would be surprised if Hubert, the more experienced player, starts the season-opener before giving way to James at some point later on. James arrived on campus just a few months ago and instantly became the most physically imposing member on the team. Whether his size and presence translates into a starting position from day one, though, remains to be seen.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/uncnow/unc-coach-roy-williams-still-deciding-starting-lineup#storylink=cpy