Tar Heels looking to put pedal to the metal against B.C.

Jan. 17, 2014 @ 05:24 PM

North Carolina’s ACC-worst 0-3 league record has been caused in part by some uncharacteristically bad performances on offense.

After failing to shoot 40 percent from the field in any of the first three conference games, UNC coach Roy Williams said he’s focused on speeding up the tempo heading into today’s game against Boston College at the Smith Center (noon, ESPN).

“If you don’t score well against a set defense you better try to run faster,” Williams said Friday. “I really love pushing the tempo, I really do, and we haven’t gotten into that nearly as much as I want us to. We’re still trying. The last week and a half we’ve been focused even more on trying to run even more.”

The Tar Heels (10-6, 0-3) shot just 30.8 percent against Miami in their last home game on Jan. 8, and then matched a program record for fewest points in the shot clock era with 45 on Saturday at Syracuse.

Combined with a 73-67 loss at Wake Forest, UNC has started conference play with three losses for just the second time ever and the first since Dean Smith’s final season in charge.

The Tar Heels have had a week to think about their slow start heading into today’s game against the Eagles (5-12, 1-3), who should provide UNC a chance to get its offense going. BC is last in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (45.8) and forces just 9.2 turnovers a game.

The Eagles entered the year with NCAA Tournament aspirations but has lost eight of its last nine against Division I opponents. Still, they play at a slow tempo, a style that has flustered UNC so far.

According to college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, Boston College is 312th in the nation in adjusted tempo (Syracuse is 343rd and Miami is last out of 351 teams). UNC’s next two opponents — Virginia (333rd) and Clemson (348th) — are also among the slowest teams in the country. By comparison, UNC leads the ACC and is 29th overall in tempo.

Tar Heel guard Marcus Paige said speeding up the game starts with a better defensive effort, which leads to more transition opportunities.

“It’s harder to beat teams down the floor when you have to take the ball out of the net, and we’ve been pretty bad on defense the last couple games,” Paige said. “And then also we need to commit to running harder. Our wings need to run better, our bigs need to run the floor better and (the guards) need to push the ball harder. It’s just something we haven’t taken advantage of like teams in the past have.”

UNC also needs to get more balanced scoring — Paige and James Michael McAdoo were the only Tar Heels with more than four points against Syracuse.

Senior Leslie McDonald averaged 12.3 points and shot 9 of 21 (42.9 percent) from behind the arc in his first four games since serving a nine-game suspension for accepting impermissible benefits, but he is averaging just 6.3 points on 23.3 percent shooting (17.7 percent from behind the arc) in conference play.

“I’m hoping that over the course of the next 15 games he can get that consistency that he wants more than anyone, with the possible exception of me,” Williams said.

Having lost three in a row for the first time in four seasons, UNC will need to beat BC for the ninth time in 11 meetings to avoid falling to 0-4 in the ACC for the first time ever.

“They’re intelligent kids; they know what’s going on,” Williams said. “I’m just talking to them about getting better every day. That’s our focus. We’re not talking about 0-3. I don’t think I’ve said anything about that other than that there’s a long season and there’s a lot left to play.”