Tar Heels look to rebound from Belmont loss vs. Richmond today
North Carolina coach Roy Williams knocked on the wood desk and knocked on his head before issuing the next line of the scouting report on Richmond.
“They haven’t shot well from 3,” Williams said.
It’s understandable that Williams was skeptical. Belmont was 15 of 54 (28 percent) from behind the arc in its first three games, but shot 15 of 37 (41 percent) in its 83-80 upset win at the Smith Center Sunday, including three 3’s by J.J. Mann in the final 1:03.
The 24th-ranked Tar Heels (2-1) look to bounce back today against Richmond (3-1) — a team that beat Belmont 69-61 — at the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. (noon, ESPN3.com).
No. 2 Louisville and Fairfield will play after UNC-Richmond. Today’s winners will meet Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPN, while the losers are scheduled to play at 3:30 p.m.
Once again, the Tar Heels will be without projected starters P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, both sidelined indefinitely because of NCAA eligibility issues.
The absence of UNC’s two best wing players have forced players to play out of position — point guard Marcus Paige has moved to shooting guard, power forward James Michael McAdoo has spent some time at small forward and freshman Nate Britt and sophomore J.P. Tokoto have both been thrust into the starting lineup.
But Paige said it’s no excuse for the loss to Belmont, when the Tar Heels only made 22 of 48 free throws and struggled to defend the perimeter.
“Despite whatever lineup problems we have, we should have won,” said Paige, who committed three turnovers on the team’s final five possessions. “We left 20-something points out there that are just gimmies.”
Williams called it one of the two or three worst free-throw shooting performances he’s ever coached.
“You’ve got to try to make sure we correct the technical problems and then hope we can give them some guidance to take care of the mental problems and go from there,” Williams said.
UNC also needs to find additional help for McAdoo (team-leading 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) and Paige (18.0 points and 4.3 assists). Britt has started the first three games but has just six assists to five turnovers and is shooting 27 percent, while top recruit Isaiah Hicks played just two minutes against Belmont.
“The only thing at the end of the game I was really mad about it — I should have given (Hicks) more opportunities,” Williams said. “So we’re going to give him more opportunities.”
Williams said he’s interested to see how his team handles adversity this weekend. While the loss to Belmont was UNC’s first non-conference home loss in eight years, sophomore forward Brice Johnson said the team can’t let it affect the rest of the season.
“It’s just one game,” Johnson said. “We change it. The buzzer’s gone off. (We) have to keep going.”
NOTES — Richmond has won eight of its last 14 games against ranked teams and three straight against the ACC. … Because the Tar Heels football game also starts at noon and will be heard on the radio, the broadcast of the basketball game will streaming on GoHeels.com. … If UNC wins today, Richmond will be the only game on the schedule that won’t be televised locally. … The teams last met in 1997 in Bill Guthridge’s second game as head coach.