Alex Conway & John Gwaltney Jr
UNC is moving in the right direction after getting their
first win of the ACC season against Boston College Saturday
afternoon. They have a quick turnaround and will get introduced
to the Big Monday festivities on ESPN tomorrow night against the
Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville.
The Tar Heels put together a full game of basketball for the
first time in what feels like decades. In reality, they only
endure a three-game losing streak but it was the kind of losing
streak that had fans wondering if they could turn it around.
The game Saturday proved that they still have plenty of talent
and most of their woes are a matter of focus and not ability.
Let's take a look at some of the storylines heading into the
fifth conference game of the year for UNC.
Switching It Up
Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald started in the
backcourt for the first time this year against Boston College and
Jackson Simmons replaced Joel James in the
frontcourt starting rotation. The switch resulted in UNC scoring
more points than they've grown accustomed to and Roy Williams may have found something to build upon going forward.
The Tar Heels still didn't shoot particularly well from deep
(just 33 percent from beyond the arc), especially when compared to
Boston College's 47 percent 3-point percentage. However, the more
traditional line-up that featured one primary ball handler, a
scoring guard and bigs with more well-defined roles, allowed for a
more cohesive unit that flowed naturally on the court.
J.P. Tokoto had a smoothness to his game that has only
been seen in spurts and his aggressiveness going towards the basket
allowed him to score four points from the charity stripe. His shot
selection has improved and he's beginning to take on more and more
responsibility for this team.
The one drawback is Paige's comfort level moving back and forth
between being a two-guard and a point guard. He spoke about that
notion after the game.
"I did get a little passive in the second half," Paige said. "I
tend to do that when I'm playing point guard and I haven't had a lot
of chances to be the primary point guard the entire time this year.
But other guys were making shots so I didn't have any problem with
Last season proved that Paige can play the point and it would
give Nate Britt a chance to develop at a slower pace
instead of making UNC have back-to-back seasons of throwing freshmen
into the ACC fire as a starting point guard.
Brice Johnson has yet to score double-digits in any game
that UNC has played in the ACC thus far. A lot of that has to do
with his inability to get on the court because he isn't doing the
things defensively that he needs to do however, his scoring ability
can make a big difference for a team void of offensive talents.
When Johnson is on there isn't a player on the team that oozes
more confidence and charisma than he does. But when he's off he
His turnaround hook shots and active hands on offensive rebounds
make him a nightmare for opposing teams when they have to scout him.
But he's got to keep himself ready to go mentally in order to make a
He got a chance to start earlier in the year but his best role is
that of a gunner coming off the bench.
That allows Williams to put him in situations where he's not
relied upon on the defensive end and he can focus on filling up the
scoreboard when UNC needs that offensive boost.
If anything was learned from UNC's football season it was that if
a team focuses on the task at hand and doesn't get drawn into the
distractions of a long losing streak or preseason expectations, they
can pull themselves out of bad spot and turn things around.
The Heels went from 1-5 to winning a bowl game. The basketball
team, this year, has already gone from losing games against Belmont
and UAB to knocking off the defending champs and defeating Michigan
State when they were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
After the Boston College game, Tokoto explained to reporters that
the coaches have emphasized to the players focusing on the things
they can control and letting go of everything beyond that.
"This week in practice it was just guard your man, worry about
what you can contribute," said Tokoto.
"We put it in the game and it worked."
This week's game means chasing Joe Harris off screens,
keeping Akil Mitchell off the glass and speeding up the
Cavaliers so they don't get stuck in a half court battle the way
they did against Syracuse.
vs. North Carolina
Virginia at a glance Location:
Charlottesville, Va. Nickname:
Cavaliers, Wahoos, 'Hoos Colors:
Orange & Blue Conference:
John Paul Jones Arena (14,593) 2012-2013 Record:
23-12 (11-7) Last Game:
Virginina beat Florida State, 78-66, on Saturday in Charlottesville. More on the Cavaliers: Schedule
| Stats |
Roster Official Site |
Last starting line-up
F - Akil Mitchell F - Mike Tobey G - Malcolm Brogdon
G - London Perrantes G - Joe Harris
If they can get past Virginia then the next three games after
that include Clemson at home, who hasn't beaten the Tar Heels in
Chapel Hill in forever, followed by games against Georgia Tech, N.C.
State and Maryland, all teams in the middle or the bottom of the ACC
If they can keep the momentum rolling against Virginia and come
out with a tough road win, they'll be in a good position to have a
decent conference record during the first week of February.