Robert Morris-North Carolina Preview
On a positive note, North Carolina showed some balance in its season-opening win. But with a preseason All-American on the roster, that tends to mean the star didn't have quite the game one might have expected.
The sixth-ranked Tar Heels will get back at it Sunday night as Robert Morris visits Chapel Hill in opening-round play of the Battle 4 Atlantis, and they might be looking to get Marcus Paige more involved.
Paige, who averaged 17.7 points in his breakout sophomore season, was limited to eight points on 2-for-8 shooting in Friday's 76-60 home win over North Carolina Central despite playing a team-high 31 minutes.
Brice Johnson scored a team-high 12 points, while Kennedy Meeks and J.P. Tokoto added 10.
"I think we could've got Marcus open a lot more," said Meeks, who had a game-high nine rebounds. "There were more opportunities for us to set those easy screens just so he could get an open shot and get in a rhythm."
Freshmen forwards Justin Jackson (nine points, five rebounds) and Theo Pinson (four points) debuted as starters while classmate Joel Berry II logged 12 minutes off the bench. Tokoto figures to return to the starting lineup after being held out in favor of Pinson because of what coach Roy Williams deemed a "mistake" in practice.
The Tar Heels limited the Eagles to 32.1 percent shooting, but their own rhythm also lacked with a 2-for-11 mark from 3-point range and a 44.3 percent overall night. They also went 20 for 30 (66.7 percent) from the foul line a season after shooting an ACC-worst 62.6 percent from the stripe.
"I like the fact that you play a pretty doggone good team and you have some struggles," said Williams, whose team is seeking a 10th straight 2-0 start. "Everybody's got to look at themselves and the things we made mistakes (on), they've got to learn from it and try to change it."
The team saw positives from sophomore Nate Britt, whose defensive effort drew praise from the tough-to-please Williams. When overlapping minutes with Paige, the duo provides Williams with an impressive backcourt option in terms of pressuring opposing teams' guards.
"It's constant repetition ... and knowing our defensive principles," Britt told the school's official website. "Once the whole team does it, it's going to be really hard for teams to score on us. With our quickness and athleticism, once everyone gets a really good understanding of the big picture and anticipating the next pass, we'll be a hard team to score on."
North Carolina has won nine straight at home, but it didn't cruise through non-conference opponents a season ago, suffering early season home losses to Belmont and Texas. Robert Morris, though, has dropped 15 straight against ranked opponents by an average of 23.4 points, including losses at Kentucky and Oklahoma State last season by 32.0.
The Colonials, coming off a 22-14 season with an NIT appearance, didn't fare much better in a 77-50 season-opening home loss to Lafayette on Friday. They shot 25.0 percent and were outrebounded 43-27.
"Obviously this is not the way we wanted to start our season," coach Andrew Toole told the school's official website. "We strayed from our plan both offensively and defensively. We let our offense affect how we played on the defense. It doesn't matter if you play zone defense, man or half court. If you don't have the urgency on defense you're going to get picked apart."
Lucky Jones, Kavon Stewart and Marcquise Reed each had 10 points for the Colonials. Jones shot 2 for 14 as the team tries to replace 2013-14 leading scorer Karvel Anderson.