February 07, 2017

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina's Justin Jackson doesn't hesitate to shoot when the ball comes his way behind the 3-point arc. Neither does backcourt mate Joel Berry II nor Kenny Williams III.

The approach is working, too, for a UNC team that is using the 3 more than it has in years entering its rivalry game at No. 18 Duke on Thursday night.

''I don't know if we can necessarily say we're a better shooting team that last year,'' Jackson said Tuesday. ''The numbers show we're hitting more, but a lot of it is just guys are shooting more confidently than maybe they did last year or the year before.''

Make no mistake: The eighth-ranked Tar Heels still lean on their inside game under Roy Williams and look to go inside first. The change, though, is that UNC is taking and making more 3s per game than at any point in the 14th-year Hall of Famer's tenure in Chapel Hill.

UNC's 3-point percentage (37.5) is also better than in the previous three seasons, including when the Tar Heels won last year's Atlantic Coast Conference championship and reached the NCAA title game while shooting just 32.7 percent.

''I just think everyone wants to stop us from getting the ball inside and they know we have an advantage in there, whether it's getting the ball inside to our big men or with our guys getting an offensive rebound,'' Berry said. ''I think a lot of teams try to pack it in to stop us from getting it inside and that leaves open opportunities for me, Justin and Kenny to be able to knock down 3s.''

The Tar Heels (21-4, 9-2 ACC) are averaging nearly 7.6 made 3s and 20.2 attempts, slightly more than the previous highs under Williams when UNC turned to a four-guard lineup for much of the 2012-13 season.

By comparison, UNC is averaging roughly two more made 3s and nearly five more attempts compared to Williams' first 13 seasons in Chapel Hill. And it's only the fourth time that UNC has averaged at least 20 attempts a game since the 3-point line became a fixture in college basketball during the 1986-87 season.

While the Tar Heels still have Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks inside, Williams said some of that shift is due to the loss of Associated Press All-American Brice Johnson inside from last year.

''It was a lot more fun for me when we had Tyler (Hansbrough) and Wayne (Ellington) and Ty (Lawson) and Danny (Green), and we could score inside and we were pretty good scoring outside as well,'' he said. ''But I still think we need to go inside and we need to be more effective with our inside game if we really want to reach some big-time dreams.''

That said, Williams hasn't complained publicly about the uptick in 3-pointers, either - including when the Tar Heels made 14 3s in a win against Virginia Tech.

Jackson, a 6-foot-8 junior wing, has made more 3s this season (66) than he did in his first two seasons combined (63).

Berry, a junior point guard, has upped his average from about 38 percent last year to a team-best 42 percent this year. Then there is Kenny Williams, who has six games with multiple made 3s after a 1-for-13 showing as a buried-on-the-bench freshman.

''At a certain timeout, (Roy Williams) will say, `We've taken this many 3s in the game, it's time to get the ball inside,''' Kenny Williams said. ''And that's when we know the next possession we need to get the ball inside.

''But throughout the course of the game, I wouldn't say we take many bad 3s. They're all in rhythm, they're all open and they're all shots that we usually are used to making.''


Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap


More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)