ECU, Lebo test Heels, Roy Williams' patience
Before Saturday’s game, North Carolina honored East Carolina coach Jeff Lebo, one of the most accurate shooters in UNC history. Then the Tar Heels made the Pirates look like a team of Jeff Lebos.
ECU scored 61 second-half points — four more than a Roy Williams-coached UNC team had ever allowed in a half — and cut a 16-point halftime deficit to four before the 21st-ranked Tar Heels came away with a 93-87 win.
“I got more frustrated today than perhaps I have in a long time,” Williams said.
Lebo, who is second in school history in career 3-point accuracy (.428) and fourth in free throw percentage (83.9), received a standing ovation during pre-game introductions. The Pirates basically matched those numbers in the second half, shooting 6 of 13 from behind the arc (46.2 percent) and 19 of 23 from the line (82.6 percent).
James Michael McAdoo said Williams’ post-game message was clear: “The way we played was unacceptable and will not be allowed any more.”
The Tar Heels (8-2) led by 18 to start the second half but allowed 21 points in the final three minutes, including back-to-back 3s from former Tar Heel ballboy Akeem Richmond (17 points) that brought ECU within four with 27 seconds left.
One second later, Dexter Strickland was fouled and made both free throws, and the teams traded baskets at the end to give UNC the win in the first-ever meeting between the teams in the Smith Center. Still, the winning locker room was far from a happy place.
“At the last TV timeout I feel like we just said ‘Okay, we won,’ but no team’s going to roll over, and that’s a prime example right there,” McAdoo said. “You have to play until there’s zeros across the board. Guys, me included…. weren’t really paying attention, and they just punched us in the mouth.”
Told that UNC had given up 61 points in the second half, McAdoo responded: “Jeez, 61 points? Lord.”
Williams thought that ECU (6-2) was the more aggressive team, and the Tar Heels weren’t sliding their feet or staying in front of the ball, causing them to reach and get called for fouls. They also left shooters open on the perimeter, one week after allowing just 12 first-half points against East Tennessee State.
“Right now there’s not anything Roy’s ecstatic about,” Williams said, referring to himself.
His concerns weren’t just with the defense. Williams said he has never been a part of a game before Saturday in which a post player didn’t get an offensive rebound.
“You guys that are knowledgeable about basketball, even people that aren’t knowledgeable sort of can tell when a guy is getting ready to shoot,” Williams said. “So anticipate your teammate’s shot and go to the board. That’s a pretty simple thing to do right there.”
McAdoo finished with 19 points and seven rebounds, but neither he nor centers Brice Johnson, Joel James and Desmond Hubert — who combined for seven points and five rebounds in 31 minutes — got a rebound off the offensive glass.
“I tried, to be honest, but I didn’t try hard enough I guess,” McAdoo said. “You can’t feel good about a win like this. It was a great learning experience but when we step out on the floor we have to play for 40 minutes, and we didn’t do that today.”
At one point, Williams even went with a lineup without post players, putting out a frontcourt of swingmen Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and J.P. Tokoto alongside guards Leslie McDonald and Luke Davis. Like most moves in the second half, it failed to achieve the desired result.
“That way we could switch all the screens on the ball and do a better job and then get where we’re supposed to be switching,” Williams said. “Then one of the next to last plays, we don’t switch and they pull up their big guy for a lay-up underneath. So the head coach at North Carolina has got to do a better job.”
Strickland, the team’s lone senior, had a career-high 10 assists and 11 points to record his first double-double. But he wasn’t in a celebratory mood either.
“It was a tough game. We made a lot of mistakes. We just need to grow,” Strickland said. “It’s still early in the season, thank God, and we just have to get better.”
NOTES — Johnson started for the second time. All three centers have had a chance to start during the past four games. … J.P. Tokoto had season highs of 10 points (on 5-of-5 shooting) and five rebounds. … ECU fell to 0-45 all-time on the road against ranked teams and 1-47 against the four in-state ACC schools.