When North Carolina coach Roy Williams boarded the Tar Heels' bus
in Winston-Salem, N.C., last Saturday, he suggested to his
players that they spend the two-hour ride back to Chapel Hill
watching a tape of their 79-73 victory over No. 16 Wake Forest.
Even though it was the Tar Heels' first conference road win of
the season, and only their second in two years, there was no
raucous cheering as the tape played--which is exactly how
Williams wanted it. "I don't want them to think that winning on
the road is something that happens once a year," Williams said.
This is an article from the Feb. 16, 2004 issue
The victory improved the Tar Heels' record to 14-6, but at week's
end they were in a four-way tie for fourth place in the ACC with
a 4-5 mark. Coming less than 48 hours after Carolina's exhausting
83-81 overtime loss to No. 1 Duke, though, the win may show that
the Heels are finally acquiring the toughness they have so sorely
lacked. Says Williams, "With almost all of my teams I've coached
mostly execution, but with this team I've had to coach effort."
That lack of effort has shown up most glaringly on defense, where
the Tar Heels are allowing conference opponents to make 49.2% of
their shots from the field, worst in the ACC. And while the Heels
played better in their OT loss to Duke, they did lose due to a
defensive lapse as Chris Duhon went coast-to-coast for a layup.
Williams has also been frustrated with the inconsistency of the
Tar Heels. Junior forward Jawad Williams had one five-game
stretch last month during which he grabbed a total of eight
rebounds, and at week's end sophomore forward Sean May had made
just 42.1% of his shots since Dec. 20.
The best sign for Carolina has been the renewed commitment of
sophomore guard Rashad McCants, who drew Williams's ire with his
four-point performance in a 61-56 loss at Kentucky on Jan. 3.
After that game McCants sought out Williams for an emotional
meeting that he says cleared the air between them. "I've had to
learn to control only what's in my control," says McCants, who
led the ACC in scoring (19.1 points a game) at week's end.
When the Carolina coaches broke down the tape of the Duke loss,
they found that McCants had made more than 40 good plays on D,
double his previous high. That's the kind of effort the Heels
will need in order to earn a spot in the NCAAs. "During the last
two games the guys have played as hard as they can," says
Williams. "That's all a coach can ask for."
1. Iowa is running out of players. The Hawkeyes (12-8), who lost
big man Jared Reiner to foot surgery Jan. 16, are down to seven
scholarship players now that senior center Sean Sonderleiter has
left the team for personal reasons.
2. Syracuse is having trouble scoring. After averaging 83.5
points in their first 10 games, the Orangemen were tallying just
68.4 a game in Big East play.
3. Michigan State has turned things around. After a brutal
nonconference schedule left them at 5-6, the Spartans were in
first place in the Big Ten (7-2, 12-8 overall), having made a
league-best 55.8% of their field goal tries.