CHAPEL HILL North Carolina coach Roy Williams knew hed have to make some concessions when he began using a smaller, quicker four-guard starting lineup. He traded size for more scoring ability, and traded post defense for better offensive spacing and more opportunities to run in transition.
Going small, Williams said, has allowed the Tar Heels their best chance to be successful. But it came with costs, too. One of the primary ones was on full display on Thursday night during UNCs 68-59 victory at Clemson. Williams was pleased with the win, but irate due to his teams inability to rebound during the second half.
The Tigers, in Williams estimation, outworked and outhustled the Tar Heels after missed shots on both ends. During the final 20 minutes of UNCs sloppy victory, Clemson outrebounded the Tar Heels by 14. Williams wrote the statistic on a white board in the UNC locker room, and later he described his players as pansies.
Toughness, then, is likely to be emphasized today when the Tar Heels host Florida State at the Smith Center.
Williams in recent weeks has often recounted what led him to change UNCs lineup. Each time he tells the story, he speaks of what he told UNCs guards, that they would have to play bigger than their size and take on responsibilities that usually belong to forwards.
In particular, junior guard Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston, the sophomore whose entry into the starting lineup has invigorated the Tar Heels during the past three weeks, have been asked to take on a larger rebounding role. After he finished with a team-high nine rebounds on Thursday, Bullock said he tries to live on the boards.
Once they see me try to get to the boards, he said of his teammates, hopefully they feed off it and continue to do the same.
During the victory at Clemson, though, Bullock was the only UNC player with more than five rebounds. James Michael McAdoo, the 6-foot-9 sophomore who is the only forward in the Tar Heels starting lineup, finished with just four rebounds.
McAdoo described the Heels second-half performance on Thursday at frustrating.
Since Williams changed the lineup before his teams loss at Duke on Feb. 13, the Tar Heels rebounding hadnt suffered dramatically. But Clemsons tall, physical front line exploited UNCs weakness. To make matters worse, Williams thought the Tigers outfought his team, too.
With the small lineup that we have, were going to struggle a little bit, Dexter Strickland said on Thursday. But at the same time, we cant use that as an excuse.
The game against Florida State might help the Tar Heels build some confidence in their rebounding. When UNC and Florida State played in Tallahassee on Jan. 12, the Tar Heels outrebounded the Seminoles by 22.
Much has changed for UNC since that game. The Tar Heels have gone small and have become a more effective and potent offensive team.
Now, with the final regular week of the regular season approaching, Williams wants them to become tougher, too.
Florida State at North Carolina
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Smith Center
TV : WBTV
Projected starting lineups
Florida State (15-13, 7-8)
C Michael Ojo 0.8 ppg, 1.1 rpg
F Okaro White 12.4 ppg, 6 rpg
G Devon Bookert 5.7 ppg, 2.4 apg
G Michael Snaer 14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg
G Aaron Thomas 6.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg
North Carolina (20-8, 10-5)
F James Michael McAdoo 14.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg
G P.J. Hairston 13.2 ppg, 4 rpg
G Reggie Bullock 14 ppg, 6.1 rpg
G Dexter Strickland 8 ppg, 4 apg
G Marcus Paige 7.48 ppg, 4.4 apg
Player to watch
James Michael McAdoo, sophomore, North Carolina
McAdoo was disappointed in his play on Thursday during the Tar Heels 68-59 victory at Clemson. He missed eight of his 13 attempts from the field and finished with just four rebounds. To be successful in March, UNC will need McAdoo to be at his best. After finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds in UNCs 70-58 victory against Georgia Tech, McAdoo has struggled offensively in the Heels past two games. He has a chance Sunday to break out of a slump.
Though it won its first two ACC games on the road, Florida State has struggled away from home. The Seminoles have won just one road game since, a 56-54 victory at Georgia Tech UNC has shortened its bench in recent weeks, but the Heels went to their bench more often on Thursday, when four players played at least seven minutes. One of those was sophomore forward Desmond Hubert, who played his most minutes since coach Roy Williams took him out of the starting lineup in mid-February. Andrew Carter