During the week North Carolina has had off between games, no one made mention of the dreaded “oh-for” start in ACC play. That’s not to say they didn’t think about it.
“We’re human and they’re intelligent kids; they know what’s going on,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I’m just talking to them about getting better every day. That’s our focus. We’re not talking about 0-3. I don’t think I’ve said anything about that, other than it’s a long season and there’s a lot left to play.”
Carolina isn’t in panic mode just yet, although a loss to Boston College on Saturday would ensure a high-level meltdown in Chapel Hill.
Leading scorer Marcus Paige said the Tar Heels’ 0-3 record in ACC and last place in the standings was a source of stress earlier in the week. He’s since resigned that those games are in the past and the Heels must turn their focus to the Eagles.
“We can’t go back and change our first three conference games, but we have an opportunity to do something [Saturday], so that’s kind of the mindset we have,” Paige said. “It was stressful earlier in the week and even before the Syracuse game, starting off 0-2. We know if we played the way we were capable of playing, we wouldn’t be in this position.
“Now that the game is right around the corner, that stress, you can’t really think about it. You just have to be ready to go out and make sure you don’t slip to 0-4.”
The way to avoid it? Get better defensively.
Both Williams and Paige on Friday traced their problems to defense, whether it was their lack of opportunities in transition to defending dribble penetration.
“Right now we still haven’t done a great job controlling the dribble and getting a hand up on the outside shot, either,” Williams said. “There are some definite categories we can improve, but I think we’ve got -- potential is what gets coaches fired -- but I think we have the potential to be a good defensive team and sometimes we have been.”
It’s not all bad defensively, where the Heels have limited opponents to a 38.5-percent field goal percentage, which ranks fourth in the ACC. But they’re about to face a Boston College team that has attempted more 3-pointers than any other team in the league -- and we all know how Carolina has a knack for allowing opposing shooters to light it up from 3-point range.
“Our defense is a lot based on support [when] guys get beat off the dribble,” Paige said. “So if we can contain the ball better, we don’t have to leave their shooters, so we’ve been really working on guarding the ball and not worrying about having to help.”