No. 9 North Carolina beats Albany 87-70

Roy Williams hasn’t been shy about talking about everything his

North Carolina team is doing wrong these days: the silly mistakes,

the bad shot selection, the lost look on defense.

And yet, his oft-repeated message of frustration still hasn’t

gotten through.

The defending national champions beat Albany 87-70 on Wednesday

night for their third straight win by double figures. But Williams

was already planning a team meeting for Thursday to address the

line of oncourt mistakes, saying his team has to show more

individual accountability with Atlantic Coast Conference play a

little more than a week away.

“We’ve got to get better, guys,” Williams said. “It is

frustrating right now. The kids are frustrated. It’s probably the

most negative I’ve been with any team, but we talk about so many

things and say the same things over and over. You know what?

They’re great kids and we’re going to be all right. We’ve just got

to do a better job.”

Ed Davis had 18 points to lead the Tar Heels (11-3), who had an

easy time in their next-to-last game before opening league play

here against Virginia Tech on Jan. 10. It was a drama-free

performance in terms of the game itself, with the Tar Heels

building a 20-point first-half lead and increasing it to 38 points

midway through the second half.

The most obvious problem was how the Tar Heels finished,

outscored 23-2 in the final 7 1/2 minutes by the Great Danes

(4-10). Williams was a little calmer this time than after Monday’s

81-67 win against Rutgers – “I’m so ticked off it is

unbelievable,” he said that night – but he was still ready to

rattle off a long list of mistakes.

“I’m tried of saying, ‘Point guards get back in defensive

balance.’ We gave up four layups,” Williams said. “I’m tired of

saying, ‘It’s not OK just to get a shot up.’ We had three tips at

it (on one play) and it bounces to one of our players and he shoots

it over 17 guys. It’s not OK just to get a shot up. (Senior Deon

Thompson) is in there with 14 guys within 3 feet of him … and

he’s still trying to shoot the friggin’ ball. Pass it out to an

open teammate.”

Williams’ list of mistakes Monday included everything from guys

forgetting repeated instructions not to try to save the ball under

their defensive basket to one play in which two players lined up to

guard the same guy.

“You can definitely tell he’s still upset,” point guard Larry

Drew II said.

It probably didn’t help matters that the Tar Heels played

without fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard and sophomore Justin

Watts. Watts injured his right ankle during Monday’s win against

Rutgers while Ginyard has missed two straight since spraining his

right ankle in practice, further depleting the Tar Heels’ already

thin perimeter.

Williams said he expects Watts could play Monday at College of

Charleston, but Ginyard might be out again.

North Carolina had its good moments, getting a 3-pointer from

Drew followed by two more from Will Graves on the ensuing

possessions for a 39-19 lead with about 5 minutes left in the first

half on the way to a 46-29 halftime lead. The Tar Heels then hit 17

of 21 shots in the second half to take an 85-47 lead with 7:35 left

in a stretch that pleased their otherwise irked coach.

“Guys know what to do,” said Thompson, who had 15 points.

“You saw that in the first 20 minutes and 8 minutes of the second

half. We just have to mentally focus for a whole 40 minutes.”

The rest of the way offered more positives for Albany, which

ended an eight-game road trip with just one victory. Will Harris

led the Great Danes with 22 points, nine coming in those final

ragged minutes.

“There might be some people scratching their head thinking,

‘Why wouldn’t you just go play somebody at the bottom of the ACC or

the bottom of the Big East, collect the check and have a chance to

compete?”’ Albany coach Will Brown said. “My thing is, our kids

grow up wanting to play at programs like Carolina, UCLA. … They

want to play the best and if you ask every kid in my program,

‘Would you want to play the defending champions next year?’ they

would all say yes.”