Tar Heels must win on boards against Providence
After losing his last two games, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said rebounding was “probably the No. 1 thing” his team needed to work on heading into the NCAA Tournament, no matter who UNC would face.
The opponent turned out to be Providence, which adds even more urgency to Williams’ task.
The Friars were tied for second in the Big East in rebounding margin (plus-3.8), and the battle for the ball will be a critical factor when No. 6 UNC faces No. 11 Providence on Friday at the AT&T Center in San Antonio (7:20 p.m., TNT).
UNC led the ACC in rebounding margin in conference play at plus-5.2, but the team slipped in its last two games. In those losses — the regular-season finale at Duke and the team’s lone ACC Tournament game against Pittsburgh — the Tar Heels allowed 41 second-chance points and were outrebounded by 22
UNC finished the Duke game with 20 total rebounds — its lowest total since 1987 — and allowed Panthers center Talib Zanna (21 rebounds) to outrebound the entire Tar Heels team through 34 minutes as Pitt opened up a 20-point lead.
“At the end of the day, if (Zanna’s) pulling down that many rebounds, then he wants to win the game more than we do,” Tar Heels sophomore Marcus Paige said. “He’s fighting off box outs, he’s being physical, he’s the one initiating the contact, and we didn’t have any of those types of plays on our side. That’s really what it comes down to — he wanted it more and his play showed it.”
Williams listed a number of reasons why UNC was getting uncharacteristically beaten on the boards recently.
“We weren’t boxing out as well. We weren’t going to the boards as well. We weren’t getting off the box out when the other team had the inside position,” Williams said. “It was just not doing a very good job.
“It’s basically what we consider one of the foundations of our whole program. I’ve talked about that as being the most important thing there is in the game of basketball. We’ve led the nation in rebound margin before. We’ve been in the top 25 to 30 teams several times, because I think it is really important. We just slipped.”
Paige said that it came down to effort.
“We just have to get back to understanding we have to box out on every possession and we can’t just rely on size and strength to get rebounds,” Paige said. “You have to go make contact and box out better than we’ve been doing.”
The Tar Heels eventually cut the 20-point deficit against Pitt to three in the final minute before the Panthers came away with a five-point win. Now UNC must play with that sense of desperation throughout the whole game, knowing that another big deficit would likely mean the end of its season.
“Everybody’s got to understand now that if you don’t play well, then you don’t get a do-over,” Williams said. “If you don’t play well now, you go home.”
NOTES — Paige wore protective tape around his sore left thumb against Pittsburgh, but he no longer needs it for practice this week. Paige also said that the thigh bruise he suffered against the Panthers is getting better and will be fine by Friday. … When asked what he remembered about his last game in San Antonio, Williams responded: “I’m pissed off, and that’s about as blunt as I can say it, so let’s just stop there. Didn’t like it at all. I was dumbfounded.” UNC fell behind 40-12 to Kansas in the 2008 Final Four, got back within five with nine minutes left, and eventually lost 84-66. “I loved San Antonio — love the River Walk, love the warmer weather — but we didn’t play worth a darn,” Williams said.
TALE OF THE TAPE: UNC VS. PROVIDENCE
|Opp. Avg. Pts.||69.1||69.5|
|Opp. FG Pct.||.411||.442|
|3-Pt. FG Pct.||.336||.350|
|Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct.||.313||.329|
|Opp. 3-Pt. FG-Game||6.1||5.4|
NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS ROSTER
Coach: Roy Williams
|0 Nate Britt||G||5-11||165||Fr||Upper Marlboro,||Md.|
|2 Leslie McDonald||G||6-5||215||Sr||Memphis,||Tenn.|
|3 Kennedy Meeks||F||6-9||290||Fr||Charlotte,||N.C.|
|4 Luke Davis||G||6-0||175||Jr||Raleigh,||N.C.|
|5 Marcus Paige||G||6-1||175||So||Marion,||Iowa|
|11 Brice Johnson||F||6-9||210||So||Orangeburg,||S.C.|
|13 J.P. Tokoto||F||6-5||200||So||Menomonee Falls,||Wisc.|
|14 Desmond Hubert||F||6-10||225||Jr||Cream Ridge,||N.Y.|
|21 Jackson Simmons||F||6-7||225||Jr||Webster,||N.C.|
|22 Isaiah Hicks||F||6-8||220||Fr||Oxford,||N.C.|
|30 James Manor||F||6-6||220||Sr||Carrboro,||N.C.|
|34 Denzel Robinson||F||6-4||220||Sr||Chapel Hill,||NC|
|42 Joel James||F||6-10||280||So||West Palm Beach,||Fla|
|43 James Michael McAdoo||F||6-9||230||Jr||Norfolk,||Va.|
|55 Wade Moody||G||6-0||175||Sr||Mount Airy||NC|
PROVIDENCE FRIARS ROSTER
Coach: Ed Cooley
|4 Josh Fortune||G||6-5||205||So||Hampton,||Va.|
|10 Kadeem Batts||F||6-9||245||Sr||Boston|
|11 Bryce Cotton||G||6-1||165||Sr||Tucson,||Ariz.|
|12 Casey Woodring||G||6-2||180||Fr||Darien,||Conn.|
|13 Brice Kofane||F||6-8||210||Jr||Yaounde,||Cameroon|
|21 Lee Goldsbrough||F||6-9||230||Sr||Newcastle,||England|
|22 Ted Bancroft||G||6-6||215||Sr||Marion,||Mass.|
|23 LaDontae Henton||F||6-6||215||Jr||Lansing,||Mich.|
|25 Tyler Harris||F||6-9||215||So||Dix Hills||N.Y.|
|33 Carson Desrosiers||F||7-0||250||Jr||Windham,||N.H.|