East Carolina-North Carolina Preview
Three weeks into the season, North Carolina coach Roy Williams is questioning his team's toughness, especially on the glass.
After being pushed around while losing for the second time in four games, the No. 12 Tar Heels look to toughen up Sunday when former North Carolina guard Jeff Lebo brings East Carolina to the Smith Center.
North Carolina (5-2) didn't allow any Iowa player to grab an offensive rebound in the first half Wednesday, but the Hawkeyes then recorded 15 and owned a 12-5 advantage in second-chance points over the final 20 minutes to hand the Heels a 60-55 home defeat.
Though UNC held the Hawkeyes to 32.7 percent shooting, Williams felt Iowa was the more aggressive team throughout - a hard pill to swallow for the veteran coach considering his team ranks among the national leaders with 17.1 offensive boards per contest.
"It's a sad thing to say," said Williams, whose teams are 6-3 in non-conference home games against unranked opponents since winning the previous 82 such contests.
"It's very frustrating."
Perhaps more concerning for Williams is that this wasn't the first time the Tar Heels were bullied on the boards.
Despite being outrebounded 19-15 on the offensive glass against then-No. 18 Florida, Carolina won 75-64 on Nov. 28 two games after previously unranked Butler owned a 57-40 advantage on the boards - 29-14 on the offensive end - in a 74-66 win over the Tar Heels.
"You can't just keep talking about (playing tougher), you've got to go out there and do it," said 6-foot-9 junior Brice Johnson, who is second on the team with 6.0 rebounds per contest. "We need to play harder than our opponents. We just have to put it in our minds that we are a tougher team, and we just need to go out there and play like that."
There's a good chance the Tar Heels can improve against East Carolina (4-4).
The Pirates' average of 11.0 offensive rebounds ranks outside the top 175 nationally and they could again be without 6-10 Marshall Guilmette, who totaled 24 points and 13 boards in the first two games before suffering a hip injury.
Lebo, a four-year starter for Dean Smith in the late 1980s, lost his two previous coaching trips to Chapel Hill.
"It's the one game I never look down at the other end," Lebo told North Carolina's official website. "I don't know if they look at me or not, because I'm not looking down there. I just try to focus on the game."
His Pirates overcame an 18-point deficit before falling 93-87 at Carolina on Dec. 15, 2012. Tar Heels starters Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto combined for 16 points in that one.
"It's a big game for our kids," Lebo said. "A lot of them grew up in the state of North Carolina and watched North Carolina play. To get a chance to go over there and play on that stage, it's really exciting for them."
East Carolina has dropped 20 straight versus ranked opponents since a 73-70 win over No. 13 Marquette on Dec. 30, 2002.
Freshman B.J. Tyson averages a team-leading 16.0 points, but has yet to start a game.
North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks (14.0 points per game) has scored 33 over the last two games after totaling 15 in the previous two.