ACC Basketball: North Carolina 87, Albany 70
CHAPEL HILLó Roy Williams hasn’t been shy about talking about everything his North Carolina team is doing wrong these days: the silly mistakes, the bad shot selection, the lost look on defense.
And yet, his oft-repeated message of frustration still hasn’t gotten through.
The defending national champions beat Albany 87-70 on Wednesday night for their third straight win by double figures. But Williams was already planning a team meeting for Thursday to address the line of oncourt mistakes, saying his team has to show more individual accountability with Atlantic Coast Conference play a little more than a week away.
“We’ve got to get better, guys,” Williams said. “It is frustrating right now. The kids are frustrated. It’s probably the most negative I’ve been with any team, but we talk about so many things and say the same things over and over. You know what? They’re great kids and we’re going to be all right. We’ve just got to do a better job.”
Ed Davis had 18 points to lead the Tar Heels (11-3), who had an easy time in their next-to-last game before opening league play here against Virginia Tech on Jan. 10. It was a drama-free performance in terms of the game itself, with the Tar Heels building a 20-point first-half lead and increasing it to 38 points midway through the second half.
The most obvious problem was how the Tar Heels finished, outscored 23-2 in the final 71/2 minutes by the Great Danes (4-10). Williams was a little calmer this time than after Monday’s 81-67 win against Rutgers ó “I’m so ticked off it is unbelievable,” he said that night ó but he was still ready to rattle off a long list of mistakes.
“I’m tried of saying, ‘Point guards get back in defensive balance.’ We gave up four layups,” Williams said. “I’m tired of saying, ‘It’s not OK just to get a shot up.’ We had three tips at it (on one play) and it bounces to one of our players and he shoots it over 17 guys. It’s not OK just to get a shot up. (Senior Deon Thompson) is in there with 14 guys within 3 feet of him … and he’s still trying to shoot the friggin’ ball. Pass it out to an open teammate.”
Williams’ list of mistakes Monday included everything from guys forgetting repeated instructions not to try to save the ball under their defensive basket to one play in which two players lined up to guard the same guy.
“You can definitely tell he’s still upset,” point guard Larry Drew II said.
It probably didn’t help matters that the Tar Heels played without fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard and sophomore Justin Watts. Watts injured his right ankle during Monday’s win against Rutgers while Ginyard has missed two straight since spraining his right ankle in practice, further depleting the Tar Heels’ already thin perimeter.
Williams said he expects Watts could play Monday at College of Charleston, but Ginyard might be out again.
North Carolina had its good moments, getting a 3-pointer from Drew followed by two more from Will Graves on the ensuing possessions for a 39-19 lead with about 5 minutes left in the first half on the way to a 46-29 halftime lead. The Tar Heels then hit 17 of 21 shots in the second half to take an 85-47 lead with 7:35 left in a stretch that pleased their otherwise irked coach.
“Guys know what to do,” said Thompson, who had 15 points. “You saw that in the first 20 minutes and 8 minutes of the second half. We just have to mentally focus for a whole 40 minutes.”
The rest of the way offered more positives for Albany, which ended an eight-game road trip with just one victory. Will Harris led the Great Danes with 22 points, nine coming in those final ragged minutes.
“There might be some people scratching their head thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t you just go play somebody at the bottom of the ACC or the bottom of the Big East, collect the check and have a chance to compete?”‘ Albany coach Will Brown said. “My thing is, our kids grow up wanting to play at programs like Carolina, UCLA. … They want to play the best and if you ask every kid in my program, ‘Would you want to play the defending champions next year?’ they would all say yes.”