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Heels need to be a first-half team

11/14/2013

North Carolina coach Roy Williams hopes his team looks a lot more like their start against Oakland than their finish as they prepare for Game 2 against Holy Cross on Friday at 8 p.m.

The Tar Heels shot 74 percent en route to scoring 58 points against the Grizzlies last Friday in the season opener. They outscored Oakland 14-0 in fast-break points and 15-4 in points off turnovers.

The second half reversed all their progress. Carolina was outscored 17-2 in points off turnovers and committed 11 turnovers. It shot just 40 percent and scored just 26 points in the second half.

“We played better then than we have any day in practice and the second half we played about as poorly as we have in any day of practice,” Williams said. “Probably somewhere in between is the real team. Hopefully, we can push each and every day try to get them closer to that first half. It was pretty basketball.”

Carolina did not have any updates on the status of guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. They will be held out of their second consecutive game while the school waits for the NCAA to weigh in on possible infractions.

That means a second straight start for Marcus Paige at shooting guard. He said it was frustrating not knowing if or when the pair would return to the lineup. Until then, he said it would be hard to predict which half they will mostly resemble.

“It’s hard to know what type of team we’re going to be yet, just because we’ve only had one game,” Paige said. “We’re not too worried about that. And we’re not too worried about the kind of second half we had. We’re just trying to improve to play the highest-caliber teams we’re getting ready to play in the next couple of months.”

Hicks slowly progressing

Of the Heels’ three freshmen, forward Isaiah Hicks was the only one not filling an immediate need. Both guard Nate Britt and center Kennedy Meeks have been a bit more in the spotlight simply because Carolina needs them to fill big voids from the start.

Hicks has seemingly been the quiet one, able to learn in the shadows behind power forwards James Michael McAdoo and Brice Johnson. Williams said he’s pleased with Hicks’ progress.

“It’s difficult for him right now because he’s also having to try to spend some time at the 3 spot,” Williams said. “So as a freshman, trying to learn different positions is very difficult. Mentally he’s being challenged with what he’s doing out there.”

Hicks grabbed five rebounds in just 11 minutes against Oakland. He also made his only shot of the game and had two points.

“I told him I wanted him to be not just more aggressive, but better words, more assertive,” Williams said. “He’s just happy to be out there sometimes. But he’s getting better and better.”