UNC ready for bigger challenge after third straight blowout win

The Tar Heels seemed bored after jumping out to a big early lead and endured the wrath of coach Roy Williams despite a 93-67 beatdown of outmanned Long Beach State

Evan Pike—X02835
Nov 15

CHAPEL HILL — After easily dispatching three lesser opponents to start the new season, the North Carolina basketball team is ready for more of a challenge. Of course, coach Roy Williams would have preferred that his Tar Heels wait until Tuesday’s game against Long Beach State was over before turning their attention to their upcoming trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. The Hall of Fame coach let his players have it, angrily breaking a clipboard in the process, after they appeared to lose interest with a big lead early in the second half. The outburst clearly got their attention. But even though UNC snapped out of its doldrums and rolled to a routine 93-67 beatdown of the outmanned 49ers at the Smith Center, Williams made it clear that letdowns such as the one his team experienced on Tuesday will not be tolerated. “It looked like the third game in five days,” said Williams, whose Tar Heels have also dispatched of Tulane and Chattanooga since last Friday. “You’ve got to win some games ugly and (Long Beach) had something to do with making us look ugly. “The first 10 minutes of the second half went as bad offensively as I’ve seen us in 31 practices, three games and one exhibition.” Up until then, UNC looked as sharp as it did in its two earlier victories. With point guard Joel Berry setting an aggressive tone offensively and the entire team swarming on the defensive end, the Tar Heels scored the game’s first 14 points while holding their opponent scoreless for opening 7½ minutes. The defending national runnersup held Long Beach to just 25.8 percent shooting from the floor and made nearly 60 percent of their own field goal attempts in running up a 50-27 lead after 20 minutes. Then they started going through the motions. “Anytime you can get a win it’s always a good thing, but when we came out in the second half, we started a little slow,” said Berry, who matched his career high with 23 points, to go along with six rebounds and four assists. “We can’t have that against great teams.” That’s a point Williams made emphatically during the first TV timeout of the second half with 13:35 remaining. UNC had missed six of its first seven shots in the period with two turnovers and had been outscored 11-6 at that point. After an especially disjointed possession, the Tar Heels coach had seen enough. “I was surprised,” freshman big man Tony Bradley said at the sight of Williams’ hand going through the clipboard, causing both halves to hit the floor with a loud crash. “He punched it and it split in half. He got my attention. My eyebrows raised up. … I was like wow.” At that moment, Williams was most upset at his team’s “sloppiness and inattention to detail.” A more big-picture concern is UNC’s penchant for giving up offensive rebounds — a problem that first cropped up when UNC Pembroke pulled down 30 in an exhibition game and reappeared against Long Beach State. Although the 49ers only had 14 offensive boards, they led to 17 points, which was far too many for Williams’ taste. “The good news is we’ve got a couple of days that we can practice a little bit, then one game and another day we can practice before we get to Maui,” the coach said. “Three games in five days is not easy and losing Luke (Maye) and not having Theo (Pinson) to start with leaves us a little short.” Maye, one of only four big men on the UNC roster, was sidelined with a sprained ankle suffered in Sunday’s win against Chattanooga. Williams said he likely won’t play on the Hawaii trip. Pinson has been out since undergoing surgery on a broken foot early in preseason practice. Their absence forced Williams to play a small lineup with wing Justin Jackson playing the power forward position more than usual. Jackson responded with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kennedy Meeks and Bradley, two of the three healthy bigs, also scored in double figures with 15 and 10 points respectively as the Tar Heels prepare to hit the road for its first real tests of the new season. “I think that’s what the whole team wants,” Berry said. “We want a good challenge. We still have to go out there and play our hardest so we can try and get better. I think going out to Maui and playing against some better competition will help us out.”