North Carolina

Defense an emphasis for UNC basketball team

Posted October 17, 2008
Updated October 18, 2008

Basketball media day was Friday afternoon at the Smith Center, and North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson gave a glimpse of how this season will be different as he gazed at the Smith Center floor.

Last year, he said, he was picking up on defense where the state of North Carolina is painted on the court.

This year, he’ll start defending at the “ACC” painted on the opposing foul line.

“On the defensive end, we’re picking up further out,” Lawson said. “We’re going to try to push the tempo, trap more.”

There are many themes surrounding this North Carolina team. Marcus Ginyard is out with an injury, and Danny Green is in the starting lineup – raising the question of whether Green can still open games by dancing to “Jump Around.”

Tyler Hansbrough is back and is still marveling at his trip to the ESPY awards, where he saw Jerry Rice and – gasp! – race car driver Danica Patrick. “I was blown away by Danica Patrick,” Hansbrough said. “She looked really good.”

Roy Williams is grumpy that his down time in May was erased by the weight of NBA decisions. And Bobby Frasor, carrying a deep scar on his left knee, is loving that he can run and dunk with little pain.

There is talent, and there are questions. Can the Tar Heels overcome that lousy performance against Kansas? (Hansbrough says he hasn’t even watched the video). Can they even make a run at going undefeated? (Williams doesn’t want to think about it).

And most significantly, can they raise a level of defense, which let them down in the final game as Kansas shot 53.1 percent from the floor?

“Last year, we had the mentality that we could outscore people,” Hansbrough said. “This year we want to be able to stop people.”

That starts with defense that extends further down the court and wears teams down. Williams loves to play at warp speed and now has a team that is ridiculously deep and talented. Five starters are back, although Ginyard is out until at least December. Sixth man Green, an NBA prospect, returns. Frasor is back from a knee injury as the reserve point guard. The recruiting class includes guard Larry Drew II, forward Ed Davis and forward Tyler Zeller.

So Carolina plans to change the game from five-on-five to nine-on-nine. The concept, Lawson said, is to push the tempo so much that other teams get tired and has to play its bench.

And that’s where the Heels have an advantage.

“Our five that we put out there, there are several teams that could compare to that five,” Williams said. “But we may have an advantage over a lot of teams if we get the game to where the seventh man, eighth man, ninth man is a huge factor. I don’t know of teams as talented and experienced when you get down to 7, 8, 9 and 10.”

“So if we can figure out a way for that depth to be a big factor, that’s a big point for us.”

Williams got a bit, well, defensive when asked if last year’s team had a weakness. He pointed out that Carolina lost only three games, so there were hardly any glaring problems.

But he did say Carolina would like to force more turnovers (Carolina had 560 last year and forced 628) and hold teams to a lower field-goal percentage (42.6 percent last season).

And he made an interesting point about plans for Saturday’s first practice.

The Heels will work on offense for 12 minutes – and on defense for an hour and 48.

“Not that I’m emphasizing anything,” Williams said with a grin.

Several Carolina players said they felt a keen sense of motivation to prove themselves after the Final Four debacle against Kansas. In a way, it sounded familiar to a year ago, when the UNC players talked at length about how they wanted to vindicate themselves after the regional final collapse against Georgetown.

But Hansbrough said he had no desire to watch the Kansas game again.

“I haven’t watched it. I know we played bad,” he said. “I don’t need to watch a videotape to know we played bad.”

Forward Danny Green doesn’t know if he’ll continue his popular dance to the song “Jump Around” at home games or not now that he’s likely to move into the starting lineup and will be on the court as the game opens.

“That’s a big question. I can’t say yes or no,” he said. “We’ll have to figure something out.”

Green said he’d rather start, but what he really wants to do is be in the game at the end.

“It doesn’t matter who starts. It’s more about who finishes,” he said. “I want to be on the floor when it’s crunch time.”

GINYARD’S INJURY: Marcus Ginyard said his left foot had bothered him “for a good period of time” but he really started to have trouble after spraining an ankle in the late summer.

By September, the foot was bothering him more. But he said he didn’t decide to have surgery for a stress fracture until a few days before it was performed last Wednesday.


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  • heels4life05 Oct 18, 2008

    Well said OTH. I think Duke is the team that needs to worry about early tournament exits, not UNC.

  • OriginalTarHeel Oct 18, 2008

    "I feel a big choke coming on by the Heels as well. I am not sure in which round, but they have way too much pressure on them to actually survive all the way through." - OriginalBlueDevil

    The only thing keeping the Heels from winning it all are injuries, not pressure.

    I think the dookies need to worry about their own team as they will be lucky to make it to the second round. Coach k loves to play the same starters with little relief from his bench. The dookies will finish third in the ACC this year behind Wake Forest and Carolina.

  • Tar Heels Victory-Show No Mercer Oct 18, 2008

    There is not as much pressure on this team as you think. They did not play great defense consistently last year. They tried to outscore everyone which put on added pressure when they were not scoring well. It worked for the majority of the year but it blew up in their faces against Kansas. When they decided to play defense against the Jayhawks, they got closer but by then it was too late. I think they will be a more balanced team this year both offensively and defensively which will take away alot of the pressure away that they felt last year. This will pay off in the NCAA tournament.
    GO HEELS!!!

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 18, 2008

    I feel a big choke coming on by the Heels as well. I am not sure in which round, but they have way too much pressure on them to actually survive all the way through.

  • bynumcowboy Oct 18, 2008

    Duke's going to the Final Four next season, while UNC chokes again. I'm curious to know what your excuse will be this year.

  • tlg0022 Oct 17, 2008

    this has nothing to do with Duke, UNC's defense was not that great last year, even WRAL points that out, as bias as they are. i'm simply saying you can't expect to just outscore everybody.

  • heelsfan19 Oct 17, 2008

    View quoted thread

    How it worked out? They went to the Final 4 for gosh sakes.

    Oh right, your a dookie. They would much rather go out in the first or second round. It hurts less that way.

  • tlg0022 Oct 17, 2008

    "Defense? the best defense is scoring triple digits. If the heels are as good as they should be and as good as the fans think they are then defense should not be an issue"..that was their exact mentality last year and look how that worked out.

  • heelsfan19 Oct 17, 2008

    "You really are a tool. Forcing in more tired zingers than a celebrity roast. Don't forget to mention Matt's recruits, Butch's raise or Hansbrough's leap before the day is up, Barney Fife."

    Wow, OBD, I really thought you were more intelligent and creative than that...can't come up with any new material?

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Oct 17, 2008

    that's what we call suckation




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