CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – How much did third-ranked North Carolina learn during its nine-game homestand?
It should find out when it hits the road at Florida State on Saturday.
The Tar Heels (15-2, 2-0 ACC) haven’t left the friendly confines of the Smith Center since Dec. 3, when they lost by a point at Kentucky. Since then, UNC has cruised -- winning eight of its past nine games by at least 15 points, while working to better its defense and balance its offense.
Although coach Roy Williams does worry his team might have become a tad too comfy, at times.
“In my opinion, probably we may have gotten a little complacent here so I'm hoping we'll have a better attention span and maybe a higher level of attention to what we need to do [on the road],’’ Williams said Friday. “… I don't think we played complacently. I think we just expected things to be easy.”
That won’t be the case against the Seminoles (10-6, 1-1 ACC), who haven’t had the start to their season (losing to two Ivy League teams, as well as at Clemson by 20, for example) that many projected after their run to the Sweet Sixteen last March. But they have a habit of playing the ACC’s top teams tough. Although UNC has won five straight at FSU, the past two were on game-winning shots. Williams knows his squad must be prepared.
“I think they give everybody the dickens, not just North Carolina,” Williams said of the 'Noles. “You look at their record – they’ve been pretty good. They’re a good basketball team. They make it difficult for you to get open shots. They make it difficult for you to get second shots.”
A few things to watch:
It was Barnes, now a sophomore, who hit the 3-point shot in the final seconds that gave the Tar Heels a 72-70 victory at the Tucker Center last season. And after recording his worst scoring performance of this year Tuesday – he was 2-for-12 with 6 points in a victory over Miami – expect some solid numbers.
“I think Florida State is a great team to play,’’ said Barnes, who had scored 20 or more points in three of four games prior to Miami. “I always get up to play them. I had a good experience with them last year and I think this team will rise to the occasion.”
UNC’s usually swish-worthy bench has averaged only 13.5 points in two ACC games, more than 10 points fewer than the rest of the season. It hasn’t helped that freshman forward James Michael McAdoo has been playing on a sprained ankle, but reserve wings Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston have to connect more. They’ve shot 3-for-12, combined, in each of their past two games.
“You always need more,’’ Williams said of his reserves. “‘Want more’ is probably a better way to put it.”
According to FSU, in the Seminoles' 10 victories, they have averaged a plus-9.9 rebounding advantage. In their six losses, they have a a minus-2.6 margin, and haven’t won the battle on the boards in any of those game.
Remember: UNC was outrebounded in each of its two losses, to UNLV and at Kentucky. Both were played away from the Smith Center, and rebounding was a focus during the Tar Heels’ homestand. Expect a bruise-worthy battle around the boards.
Follow Robbi PIckeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.