No. 9 UNC edges Scarlet Knights
North Carolina’s 17-point second-half lead was down to four with
about 2 minutes left when Dexter Strickland got the ball in the
corner. The freshman hesitated, then launched a 3-pointer that
dropped through the net and sent everyone in the Smith Center into
Everyone except Roy Williams.
“I hated the shot,” the Hall of Fame coach said, “but it went
in and talent took over above coaching and intelligence.”
Strickland’s 3 was key in helping the ninth-ranked Tar Heels
hold off Rutgers 81-67 on Monday night. But perhaps more than
anything, it illustrated the apparent disconnect between what
Williams wants and what his young squad is giving him — a
surprising problem for a team that is 13 games into the season and
two weeks from Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Yes, Strickland scored a season-high 18 points to lead six
players in double figures and the Tar Heels pulled away late for a
double-digit victory. But the final score doesn’t tell what
Williams sees: a team that looked confused defensively and
struggled to make the right decisions with the ball.
At one point, Williams was so irked that he slammed his right
hand down on his chair and slouched in his seat on the bench after
the Tar Heels had to burn a timeout with about 3 minutes left.
“I’m really not in a good mood about any dumb things that
they did right now,” a seething Williams said.
The absence of fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard didn’t help
matters. The versatile swingman, who is averaging 11 points per
game, sprained his right ankle on a drive to the basket during
Saturday’s practice, with the school announcing Monday afternoon he
would sit out against Rutgers. He was on the bench, but walked at
times with the aid of a crutch and is considered doubtful for
Wednesday night’s home game against Albany.
But still, with guys like senior Deon Thompson (14 points)
and sophomore big man Ed Davis (11 points, 15 rebounds) coming off
significant roles in last year’s national championship run, it’s
not like North Carolina should look so befuddled, either.
“We have the talent to be a very, very good team and have all
the pieces to be a very, very good team,” Thompson said. “What we
do in practice, we just have to do in games. We do everything
perfect in practice and then we get in the games and then it seems
like we just forget everything.”
Mike Rosario scored 22 points to lead the Scarlet Knights
(9-3), who came in with a six-game winning streak — the program’s
longest in eight years — though it came largely against a soft
schedule. That didn’t stop Rutgers from giving the Tar Heels plenty
of reason to feel frustrated.
“I really like what this team is doing,” Rutgers coach Fred
Hill said. “But I’m an old-school guy. I never like when we lose a
The Tar Heels pushed a 39-33 halftime lead into a 61-44
margin with about 12 minutes left only to see the Scarlet Knights
inch their way back into the game. Rosario’s driving score made it
71-67 with 2:08 left and awoke what had been a slumbering home
Ten seconds later, Strickland launched the 3 that was
tolerable to Williams only because it went in.
“I absolutely understand why he’s mad,” Strickland said.
“Like the 3, I think it would have been a better decision if I had
given it to Deon [inside]. It’s little stuff like that, where you
can make the play better, that he’s mad at.”
North Carolina helped itself with a 45-34 rebound advantage,
including 17 on the offensive end that led to 17 second-chance
points. The Tar Heels went 24 of 35 at the free throw line,
including 25 attempts in the second half after getting 7-footers
Hamady Ndiaye and Brian Okam into foul trouble and reaching the
bonus just 4 minutes after the break.
Rutgers missed 20 of 23 3-point attempts, including several
that could have put more pressure on the defending national
champions in those final unsteady minutes.
“We’re going to see what happens [(at practice Tuesday],” Tar
Heels point guard Larry Drew II said. “I don’t think it’s going to
look too good. But we deserve whatever [Williams] throws at us.”
The Tar Heels wore their throwback uniforms — which include
a touch of red — from the 1957 national championship season for
the second time as part of a season-long celebration of the
program’s centennial season.