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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Despite poor shooting, Tar Heels blanket hapless Tribe

Posted by on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 11:57 PM

Williams is trying to create offensive continuity
DEAN SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina prevailed over William & Mary 85-60 on Tuesday night thanks to stingy defense and superior overall athleticism. The Tar Heels rebounded from a heartbreaking defeat against Texas last weekend, opening sluggishly but taking control of the game midway through the first half and coasting thereafter.

Carolina’s offense once again was insufficient, however. Against an inferior opponent, the Heels shot just 44 percent from the field and 30 percent on three-pointers. UNC forced 21 turnovers but didn’t convert many of those errors into buckets because players struggled to finish at the rim.

William & Mary was UNC’s first round opponent in the postseason NIT last spring, and the Tar Heels needed a spirited crowd at Carmichael Arena to outlast them. The Tribe are down in talent this year, and they simply weren’t able to match Carolina’s size and speed.

Sophomore guard Dexter Strickland continues to shine on defense, and in the past two games he has found his offensive game as well. The New Jersey native led the team with 19 points on 8-for-12 from the field, including 2-for-2 from deep. Fellow sophomore wing Leslie McDonald also enjoyed a good shooting night, hitting for 14 points on 2-for-5 on threes.

John Henson’s thumb served up the game’s most drama. He has nursed a painful jam for a couple weeks, and toward the end of the first half he took a shot to that injured area that sent him to the sideline for the remainder of the contest. UNC officials varied in their estimates of the injury’s severity, but Roy Williams said after the game that the thumb had become swollen and that the medical staff would conduct tests to determine the best way to proceed.

Carolina improved to 8-4 on the season, but many of the faithful remain skeptical heading into the new year. The Heels still lack polish offensively, and most everyone — including the various television analysts and, more importantly, former UNC star and current radio analyst Eric Montross — all have more or less advocated for a change at point guard.

Freshman floor general Kendall Marshall didn’t score but did hand out eight assists with no turnovers. Junior incumbent Larry Drew also went scoreless and had six assists, but he coughed up three turnovers. The thinking among many is that if Drew’s experience advantage isn’t enabling him to out-perform Marshall, why not play the kid who’s likely to improve the most during the course of the season as he gains additional reps?

Roy Williams has become increasingly sensitive to the point guard controversy and, for his part, clarifies that Drew clearly has been the better man in practice. When or whether he makes a change is anyone’s guess.

Moving on, Carolina’s next game will take place against a week from tonight against Rutgers, at legendary Madison Square Garden. To view the UNC/W&M box score, click here.

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