An identity crisis at UNC
Posted December 15, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The expression “they need to find their identity” is very played out, but not without reason. For North Carolina, they just need to get better according to head coach Roy Williams following a 93-87 struggle against East Carolina.
“I am more frustrated today than I have been in a long time,” Williams said. “We didn’t have a single offensive rebound from a post player all game. I got really frustrated and I went small.”
Williams was virtually unprompted in spitting out the statistical detail, as well as his subsequent coaching maneuver. Williams was a winning coach with disappointment at measurable levels Saturday.
But, he was not incorrect. Williams in turn went small, and then he went really small.
With the likes of James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson, Joel James and Desmond Hubert combining for zero offensive boards, freshman J.P. Tokoto saw some time in the paint. In 10 minutes of play, he responded with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting and grabbed five rebounds – two offensive.
“Am I going to start a game or play small for 30 minutes, probably not,” Williams said. “But that was frustrating. I’ve never had a game where we didn’t have a single offensive rebound by the post guys.”
But while going small led to points – 18 from P.J. Hairston, 14 from Reggie Bullock, 12 from Dexter Strickland and 10 from Tokoto – it also allowed East Carolina to get back in the game.
The Pirates grabbed 21 second-half rebounds and UNC held a slim 40-36 edge in the overall stat for the contest. It also allowed ECU big man Maurice Kemp to grab 14 of his own rebounds while pouring in 15 points. Add to that, ECU went to the free throw line 23 times in the second-half alone and knocked down 10 three-pointers, and a lead that had stood at 18 points was narrowed to just four with under a minute to play.
“I’m playing a lot of people and I’m committed to that,” Williams said of his line-up that had 12 players see the court Saturday. It was that eighth time in the season’s first 10 games that at least a dozen players have seen the playing surface.
Saturday was the return for former UNC guard Jeff Lebo who played for the Heels from 1985-89. Before the game, Lebo got a separate introduction to a standing ovation from the Dean Dome crowd.
“This is a special place for me, obviously, having played here,” Lebo said. “That was special to me and to my family.”
Lebo said that despite this being ECU’s first ever trip to Chapel Hill, his team had experience and he credits the late-game run to that experience. He stopped short, however, of saying that he wants to make the trip a regularly scheduled affair.
“It’s an easier trip home afterwards,” Lebo said.
Williams said that his relationship and respect for Lebo made it difficult at times on Saturday.
“I tried to never look at Jeff,” Williams said.
The two did sit together on the bench in pregame shoot around and took pictures together on the court.
ECU guard Akeem Richmond was a ball boy for UNC when he was younger. In his first game at the Dean Dome he scored 17 points on 5-for-10 from three-point range…Saturday marked just the third ever meeting between ECU and UNC and the first in Chapel Hill. UNC has won all three… Tokoto’s 10 points were a career high… Strickland posted his first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 assists…ECU outscored UNC 61-51 in the second half.