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Roy Williams gets early look at Tar Heels on Bahamas trip

By Andrew Carter
acarter@newsobserver.com

CHAPEL HILL

North Carolina closed out its two-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas with a 109-52 victory on Saturday against the Bahamas All-Stars. It was a nice bounce back performance after the Tar Heels' 84-83 loss against the Providence Storm on Friday.

As I wrote after that game, I wasn't in the Bahamas these games weren't televised (or streamed online), so it's difficult to write with too much authority about any of this. But, it's easy enough to know that UNC played well on Saturday.

UNC shot 61 percent on Saturday and eight players scored at least seven points, led by Isiah Hicks' 19 points and Justin Jackson's 16. Hicks is a sophomore forward who had some difficulty finding his place last season and Jackson is a freshman who could be in the running for a starting position at shooting guard.

So it's an encouraging sign that they played well. They were also UNC's leading scorers in the defeat on Friday. Another encouraging sign: the Tar Heels shot a lot better from the perimeter on Saturday than they did on Friday.

UNC made seven of its 13 3-point attempts on Saturday, after going 3-for-25 from behind the 3-point line on Friday. The international FIBA 3-point line was in use.

Brice Johnson, who suffered a sprained ankle on Friday, played seven minutes on Saturday and didn't play in the second half for precautionary reasons. UNC used a starting lineup of Marcus Paige, Theo Pinson, J.P. Tokoto, Johnson and Desmond Hubert.

Inside Carolina, which was on site covering the exhibitions, reported that no UNC starter played more than 17 minutes. So, as you'd expect, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams used this as an opportunity to see a lot of players and experiment with different lineup combinations. (Inside Carolina also reported that some of the Bahamas All-Stars didn’t arrive until five minutes before the game started. Likely a humorous scene, to be sure.)

Pinson, another freshman, is also in the running for that second guard spot alongside Paige. That's likely to remain one of the biggest questions facing the Tar Heels entering the season: who starts alongside Paige at the other guard position.

If Paige starts at point guard – and he has indicated that's what he prefers – then who is UNC's starting shooting guard going to be? Paige didn't have an answer when we spoke with him earlier in the summer. It could be Pinson. It could be Jackson. Another possibility is that Nate Britt starts at point guard and Paige at shooting guard, as was the case for long stretches last season.

Williams will have a while to figure it out. Practice starts in early October. Late Night with Roy – UNC's annual preseason pep rally, of sorts – is scheduled for Oct. 3, a Friday.

As for the Bahamas trip, it's still ongoing, though there are no more games. The team returns to Chapel Hill on Monday. Even though the trip included a loss, it probably provided Williams what he was looking for: an opportunity to learn something about his guys, as well as some adversity (the defeat on Friday) that provided some teaching points.

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