And so it began, the basketball season that is, as #12/#11 North Carolina defeated UNC Pembroke 82 to 63 in the Heels only exhibition of the year. The game was played in the friendly confine of the Dean Dome and was not televised. Without three key players like P.J. Hairston (uncertain of return), Leslie McDonald (uncertain of return) and J.P. Tokoto (will be back for Oakland next Friday) head coach Roy Williams had to use line ups that could easily be called… unusual.
A huge thank you to Christy Robbins LeBoeuf for the pictures. Check out many more here
“It’s hard,” Roy Williams said after the game. “We’ve got a lineup out there and poor Isaiah has never played the three in his life but we’re trying to get him some minutes out there, and James Michael didn’t play the four the entire game.”
As I talked about in my preview, this game was going to be how Carolina took control of the post, which is something that the coaching staff did from the get go. The Tar Heels just did not go down low right away, but every so often the Braves had to deal with another fresh body coming off the bench to pound down low.
James McAdoo, that ended the game with a double double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but also had five turnovers while playing the three for the whole game maybe had the best line for the game the Tar Heels just played…
“It was,” he said, “a little bit awkward.”
McAdoo led the whole team with 27 minutes on the floor, while other four Carolina players got over 20 minutes in all and another quartet got over 10 minutes. On the other hand just another player scored in double digits, Kennedy Meeks, with 11 points, while just a second Heel would have 10 rebounds, Brice Johnson. On the flip side, 10 different players scored last night.
The pleasant surprise for most everyone has to be that the squad went 23 for 27 from the charity stripes, three of the misses by McAdoo, who went 3 for 6. But 23 turnovers against a Division II team, even with all different types of line ups is way too high, and going forward this has to be the number one priority to fix. The fact that point guard Marcus Paige and McAdoo committed five a piece, Brice Johnson had four, is definitely something that needs to be addressed. While going 3 for 15 (20%) from beyond the arc reminds all how much this squad is going to need the two guards with the the uncertain status.
As a team, even if it was against inferior competition, was that after being up by over 20 points the guest came back strong, North Carolina was able to once again refocus and put UNC Pembroke away. This is good for a team that needs its three freshmen to contribute and had a trio of key players not playing in this game.
In the end, as I said in my preview, this game was more about seeing how this core of players would play going forward, and as coach Williams said, there is ups and there is downs…
“It was a good night for us to learn a lot of things about our team—some good, some bad,” said Williams immediately afterwards. “It was an opportunity for us to get better, and I think we will gain from it.”
As I said in prior posts, this season will not be without bumps in the road, tonight the Tar Heels had a few. On the other side the players worked through it and got a good win when it was all said and done. It will be interesting, with a week to go from the start of the regular season, how the coaches and players adjust to fix the problems and push forward on what the squad is doing right.
The one thing that reminded me why this is North Carolina is the fast break, and this small video showed that this part of the game is still being done very well.
With the game over and done the coaches and players will now focus on their hope opener against Oakland next Friday at the Dean Dome. For that match up coach Williams will have J.P. Tokoto back, but that does not meant the team is all set…
“I’m not close to a set lineup by any means,” said Williams.
…and until Hairston and McDonald are back in the mix the Tar Heels might not have a fixed line up going into any game, but one thing that seems sure, they will be going a lot bigger this season than they every did, or could, a year ago.