Tar Heels head to FSU seeking seventh win in a row
Schoolkids love snow days.
But then come snow-makeup days.
Mother Nature cancelled classes late last week all over the Triangle. That included recess in the Smith Center which kept Duke and North Carolina from participating in a little physical education.
Snow and ice prevented the Blue Devils from arriving safely in Chapel Hill last Wednesday, so the Duke-UNC basketball game was rescheduled for Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN/WRAL).
It means both Duke and UNC have to play four games in eight days.
The Tar Heels checked off one of those assignments on Saturday with a 75-71 win against No. 25 Pittsburgh then did a little homework Sunday for a test at Florida State tonight (7 p.m., ESPN).
It all makes for quite a cram session, but UNC coach Roy Williams suggested that basketball players who are 18, 19 and 20 years old can handle long nights, shortened days and everything else in between.
“We’ve got to prepare, and we’ve got to give them some extra time, put ’em in a hot tub, cold tub and drown ’em,” Williams said.
Williams was having some fun there, but his point was that a UNC team with a sense of urgency has no time for excuses.
UNC forward James Michael McAdoo has embraced that mentality. The time for the Tar Heels to handle their business is right now, he said.
“It’s definitely going to take some mental toughness, especially going down to Florida State, which is a hostile environment,” McAdoo said. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where the game’s played or how many days we’ve played in a row or none of that stuff. We’ve just got to show up ready to play. It’s Carolina.”
UNC’s victory over Pitt was the sixth straight win for the Tar Heels (17-7, 7-4), now in fourth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
McAdoo scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Pitt, and UNC point guard Marcus Paige hit 5 of 6 three pointers, finishing with 18 points, four assists and four rebounds.
But those two need some help — other Tar Heels have to step up and score, Williams said.
“That’s the bottom line,” Williams said.
Paige entered the game against Pitt averaging nearly 36 minutes on the court. He played 38 minutes against Pitt and said he was tired and should have asked for a breather. But competitors don’t realize they’re too tired until they’re, well, too tired, Paige said.
Exhausted or not, Paige said he can’t cough up the ball four times like he did against Pitt.
UNC this evening will encounter a Florida State team that won at Wake Forest on Saturday after two ACC losses.
The Seminoles (15-10, 6-7 ACC) get most of their scoring from Aaron Thomas (13.5 points per game) and Ian Miller (13.3 ppg). Thomas went for 19 points against Wake Forest.
UNC is getting it done on the defensive end of the floor, Paige said. The Tar Heels found their groove defensively about two or three games into their winning streak, Paige said.
“We have length, we have athleticism and we have shot blockers,” Paige said. “So we’ve taken that to heart and decided that since we’re not the best offensive team in the world, we’re just going to hang our hat on defense, and it’s paid off for us.”
Pittsburgh committed 11 turnovers against UNC. The Panthers like to keep things slow on offense, so the Tar Heels flipped the script on them, UNC sophomore forward Brice Johnson said.
“We were trying to speed them up just with our defensive pressure,” Johnson said. “We did speed them up a little bit, ran out and got a couple of dunks. That’s one thing we wanted to do. That’s probably the difference in the game. We got those couple of steals and got those run-outs.”
Johnson blocked five Pitt shots.
Four games in eight days for the Tar Heels could come with an emotional toll. UNC was stoked to play Duke before snow put the rivalry on ice.
“I spent three days (where) that’s all I could think about,” Paige said about the Duke-UNC game. “We knew that we had a chance to get a lot of students in there — because all the people wouldn’t be able to make it to the game — and have a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime type of environment. But we’ll play ’em on Thursday.
“We’re gonna get our chance in a couple days, but we’re more focused on what we’ve got to do … to prepare for Florida State.”