ACC Basketball: Tough week for UNC
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2011
By Aaron Beard
CHAPEL HILL ó North Carolina lasted about three weeks at No. 1 before suffering its first loss and seeing its best player hobbled by an ankle injury. Now things really get tough for the Tar Heels.
With preseason All-American Harrison Barnes recovering from a sprained right ankle, fifth-ranked North Carolina hosts No. 9 Wisconsin on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Then comes Saturdayís trip to Kentucky, which replaced the Tar Heels at No. 1 after the loss to UNLV over the weekend.
UNC coach Roy Williams said Barnes missed Mondayís practice after rolling his ankle while chasing a loose ball in the first half against UNLV. He returned to play 30 minutes, though Williams didnít sound certain that the 6-foot-8 forward would be ready for the Badgers. But team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Barnes ó the teamís top scorer at 17 points per game ó planned to return to ěfullî practice Tuesday afternoon.
Even with Barnes in the lineup, however, the Tar Heels (5-1) will be challenged to regroup from the surprising loss.
ěIím sure theyíre disappointed ó I donít know if I would say angry,î Williams said. ěI think they were disappointed greatly in losing. I think they were also disappointed greatly in how they played. And thatís what weíve got to change.î
North Carolina has plenty of things to improve. And that list has changed by the game.
Michigan State outrebounded the Tar Heels by 15 in the Carrier Classic opener. Two games later, North Carolina continued last seasonís outside shooting struggles against Mississippi Valley State. The next game, UNCís shooting improved only to see the defense struggle for a half against Tennessee State.
After flying west for the Las Vegas Invitational, the Tar Heels were outrebounded against both South Carolina and UNLV ó a surprise considering the Tar Heelsí potential NBA talent on the front line. And UNC struggled to contain dribble penetration or defend the perimeter in the 90-80 loss to the Runniní Rebels.
ěCoach is constantly telling us things that we have to get better at,î sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall said. ěIf we want to be the team weíre capable of being, we have to put that effort out there. We have to rebound better. We have to guard the ball better. We know weíre not playing like the No. 1 team in the country at this point in time.î
The struggles against UNLV could be a bad omen against the Badgers (6-0), who have outrebounded opponents by an average of 14 per game and are shooting 47 percent from 3-point range.
But Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said there wasnít any disappointment about not getting a shot at the No. 1-ranked team anymore.
ěCarolina is still Carolina,î Ryan said. ěThey are still the same players and weíve got them in the Dean Dome. So North Carolina isnít any different than when they went out to Vegas. Probably a little ornerier maybe now, but they were going to play hard against usî regardless of the loss.
Also, Williams vented for the second straight day about UNC fans who sold their tickets in the section behind the bench to UNLV fans in Las Vegas. He was asked during his news conference about chastising those fans during his radio show Monday night, responding Tuesday by saying: ěI donít like our fans to help the other team by either giving or selling their tickets.î
He also referenced a North Carolina-North Carolina State game in 2002 when Wolfpack fans bought up plenty of seats in the Smith Center. Williams was coach at Kansas then as UNC lost to N.C. State on the way to an 8-20 season under Matt Doherty.
ěItís something thatís always bothered me,î Williams said of home fans selling their tickets to opposing fans. ěIt will always bother me. A hundred years ago Iím watching in Lawrence, Kansas, and North Carolinaís playing North Carolina State and there were five million red shirts in the crowd. And if Iíd had a BB gun, five million red shirts would have had a burned rear end because I just donít like those kinds of things.
ěI mean, seriously. Do you guys like it when all the Internet people beat you on a story? I mean, thatís what it is. Itís competition. And if you were my friend, you are not going to help the competition.î
The Associated Press