North Carolina senior guard Leslie McDonald shot nearly 50 percent from the field during the four nonconference games in which he participated. Since then, his percentages have plummeted to bona fide slump levels.
In five ACC games, he’s shooting just 26 percent from the floor and has made just 7-of-31 3-point attempts.
“I think he’s been rushing it a little bit in the games and teams know he’s a 3-point shooter so they close on him a lot harder,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “We can’t simulate that in practice.”
Carolina ranks first nationally in the percentage of its scoring (63.6) that comes from shots inside the arc. It ranks last in Division I with 14 percent of its points generated from 3-pointers.
McDonald, who averages 9.8 points per game, and Marcus Paige are the only proven perimeter shooters for the Tar Heels. They account for 79 percent of the teams’ 3-point attempts this season, but in conference play neither has been effective. Paige has matched McDonald in also shooting just 22 percent from 3-point range.
McDonald has had a bad combination of rushing his shots and forcing them, too. He’s tied with James Michael McAdoo for the second most shot attempts on the team during conference play at 53. That’s despite the fact McDonald plays eight fewer minutes per game and McAdoo is averaging about six more points per game at 13.6 in conference play.
Williams blames at least part of McDonald’s slump on missing the first nine games of the season while the NCAA weighed on his eligibility. He missed out on chances to get into a rhythm and build his confidence against lesser teams.
“You don’t need to play the Celtics, the Lakers, the Dukes, the Connecticuts, you need to have some other games to allow kids to get their confidence rolling,” Williams said. “This just confirmed that, but it has been tough for him.”
Clemson could be even tougher for McDonald to break out of his slump against. The Tigers are fourth in the nation in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 26.3 percent.
Williams, however, believes McDonald is getting close to having a breakout performance.
“He’s had some good practices and usually that comes first,” Williams said. “There’s no question about that. I’ve never had a guy to have bad practices then all of a sudden play great in games. Some guys are gamers. Usually the confidence comes from seeing the ball going in the basket.”