North Carolina-Wake Forest Preview
Coming off a sloppy victory, coach Roy Williams wants North Carolina totally prepared to avoid losing at Wake Forest for a season straight season.
In the process, the No. 15 Tar Heels can improve to 3-0 on the road in the ACC for the first time in seven seasons Wednesday night.
Though North Carolina (14-4, 4-1) has won three in a row and eight of nine, Williams was irritated after his squad committed 17 turnovers and struggled to dictate the tempo in Sunday’s 68-53 home victory over Virginia Tech.
”Sometimes you’ve got to win ugly to have a really good year,” he said, ”and that was an ugly win.”
Williams was still agitated Monday, when he canceled a scheduled day off and had the team watch film and practice.
"I don’t think we’re a stupid team, but every team plays stupid at times," Williams said. "We’re going to try to get better."
The Tar Heels committed 17 turnovers that Wake Forest turned into 19 points in a 73-67 road defeat last Jan. 5. The Tar Heels haven’t dropped consecutive games at Wake since 2002 and 2003.
If North Carolina wants to avoid doing so again and start 3-0 on the road in the league for the first time since 2007-08, it likely needs a cleaner effort from starters Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto. Both committed four turnovers Sunday, and Tokoto is averaging a career-high 2.5 and has seven in two games.
Paige has committed six turnovers in five road games this season and none in the last two, but the Tar Heels’ leading scorer (13.6 points per game) looks to bounce back after scoring eight points and going 3 of 10 from the floor.
Already dealing with plantar fasciitis, Paige left for a short time Sunday with a bruised hip but appears to be fine. He had six assists but four turnovers and went 3 of 12 from the field for eight points at Wake last season.
Though the Tar Heels shot 44.1 percent Sunday, they held the Hokies to 35.8 and outrebounded them 49-22, including 16-4 on the offensive glass. Freshman Justin Jackson scored 16 and had a season-high seven boards after failing to record a rebound against N.C. State.
"I’ve told him he’s got to be more aggressive," Williams said.
The Tar Heels rank second in the nation with 44.3 boards per game while the Demon Deacons (9-9, 1-4) are 15th at 40.1. North Carolina held a 53-34 rebounding advantage at Wake last season, but shot 38.7 percent compared to Wake’s 48.1.
Though the Deacons have averaged 76.0 points and shot 47.6 percent in the last five games, they rank last in the ACC in scoring defense (69.1 points per game) and defensive field-goal percentage (43.7). They are coming off an 86-83 overtime loss to Syracuse last Tuesday.
Guard Codi Miller-McIntyre averages a team-leading 13.3 points and had a season-high 24 against the Orange. He scored 12 and shot 5 for 10 in the win over North Carolina but missed all seven field-goal attempts and went scoreless in a 105-72 road loss to the Tar Heels on Feb. 22.
Wake’s 6-foot-10 freshman Konstantinos Mitoglou averaged 7.6 points before scoring 26 and hitting four 3-pointers against Syracuse.
North Carolina has won five of six and 10 of the last 14 meetings in this series.