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Friday, December 21, 2012
McNeese State at UNC: What to watch

By Robbi Pickeral

Coach Roy Williams worried after North Carolina’s latest loss -- an ugly 18-point downfall at unranked Texas during which the Tar Heels got out-shot, out-hustled and outplayed -- that his team’s confidence might be shaken.

But with only two games left before the start of ACC play, they’ve got to shake that off, and fast.

“It doesn’t make any difference if you’re confident or not, you've got to start playing better,’’ Williams said after his team fell to 8-3. “So far we haven’t been able to that. We’ve played Butler, a very quality opponent. We’ve played Indiana, a very quality opponent. We’ve played Texas at Texas … We haven’t played well any of those three games.

“The other games that we’ve won, we probably should’ve won because we were just more gifted. I’ve got to do a heck of a lot better job and they’ve got to buy in, and we’re just doing some of the silliest things out there that I’ve ever seen.”

Saturday’s opponent, McNeese State, marks another “should-win” game for the Tar Heels. But more importantly, it marks another chance to try to smooth out some of their problems. Because frankly, they don’t have much more time to “buy in” before ACC teams start cashing in on their weaknesses.

A few things to watch:

3-POINT SHOOTING

With so many veterans on the wing this season, this was supposed to be a strength of this team, and at times, it has been. The Tar Heels, overall, are shooting 36.2 percent from 3-point range, but are 11-for-49 in their three losses.

One of the problems? Shot selection.

“Tonight the last three or four weren’t very good shots; against Butler the last three or four weren’t very good shots,’’ Williams said after the loss to the Longhorns. “You've got to shoot a higher percentage to get back in the game. I screamed one time, 'Let’s take five extra seconds to get a great one,' and P.J. [Hairston] -- and this is not just picking on P.J. because there was a lot of guys that missed them -- but he’s inside and so he dribbles it back out behind the 3 and then rushed it. You can’t do those kinds of things.”

THE BIG PROBLEM

If it seems like we’re having to watch the ‘5’ position every game -- well, we are.

Freshman Joel James got the start at the ever-changing center position on Wednesday, but then freshman J.P. Tokoto, a 6-foot-5 wing who has been playing the ‘4’ when the Tar Heels go to a four-guard lineup, started the second half in place of James, because “he just gave us a little more effort, and … we weren’t getting much out of the big guys,” Williams said.

In all, James, Desmond Hubert and Brice Johnson combined for four points and four rebounds in the loss, and that’s a big problem. Although the strength of the team is its experienced wings, Williams still wants to feed the ball through the post. Since sophomore James Michael McAdoo isn’t a traditional back-to-the-basket player, he needs some more consistent big-man help.

THE COWBOYS

McNeese State (6-3) is led by 6-1 senior guard Dontae Cannon, who is averaging 12.6 points and 4.3 assists per game. The Cowboys have won five straight, and have shot better than 50 percent in each of their past two (vs. Louisiana Tech, at Texas Tech).