North Carolina welcomes Chattanooga for home opener

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina coach Roy Williams isn't assuming anything when divvying up playing time for the Tar Heels.

He's more than willing to see how things pan out. After just one game, that's a plan he might stick with for a while, including in Sunday's matchup with visiting Chattanooga.

“We did have 10 guys play double-figure minutes,” Williams said following No. 6 North Carolina's 95-75 road victory against Tulane. “It was a plan that we wanted to do. We wanted to play a lot of guys and get a lot of time in for guys.”

Sunday will mark the home opener for the Tar Heels, who last season finished as the national runners-up.

Junior swingman Justin Jackson's career-high 27 points and Joel Berry II's career-best 23 points supplied a large chunk of offense in the Tulane game.

Making it difficult for Williams to determine lineups and rotations is something positive for the Tar Heels.

“I think it's going to be hard for Coach,” senior forward Isaiah Hicks said. “The way practice is going, everybody is knocking down shots.”

Part of the comfort level is having junior guard Berry II, who's trying to build on what was often a series of splendid late-season performances last winter and spring.

“He leads more by example than anything,” Williams said. “He has had a good preseason.”

North Carolina's starting lineup in the opener included sophomore guard Kenny Williams instead of senior guard Nate Britt. With Theo Pinson expected to be out until at least late December with a foot injury, others will have chances to show how they can contribute.

Coach Williams attributed that decision on the starting lineup coming in part because of the multiple options he has with this team.

“I just felt like it was probably something I was going to do,” the coach said, pointing out there could be varying lineups, including from the start of games to the start of second halves.

Sunday's game also will mark the home debut for North Carolina freshman post player Tony Bradley, whose first college game resulted in 10 points and five rebounds. He's considered a potential option to fill in for forward Kennedy Meeks to give the Tar Heels a different kind of presence in the lane.

Chattanooga should arrive with plenty of confidence after opening the season with Friday night's 82-69 victory at Tennessee.

Though just one game into his second season, coach Matt McCall has guided the Mocs to a 12-4 road record. McCall said the ability to excel in Tennessee's environment is something the team will need to replicate against other major-conference opponents, including by playing North Carolina at the Smith Center.

Senior Tre' McLean said the team's season-opening performance is bound to build good vibes.

“As a team, we have a lot of confidence,” McLean said. “The young guys really don't know what we are completely capable of with them not seeing last year's success. It was great to have them contribute and show them how good we can really be.”

The outing against an in-state rival was inspirational and senior Justin Tuoyo said the Mocs thrive in big environments as they go from facing a Southeastern Conference team to an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.

“You just really get into these,” said Tuoyo, whose 22 points led the way against Tennessee. That was one more point than McLean scored.