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February 6, 2009For the second consecutive game, the third-ranked Tar Heels will play an inferior conference opponent.
The question is whether Carolina (20-2, 6-2 in the ACC) will pummel Virginia (7-6, 1-6) offensively as UNC did when it scored 108 points against Maryland in the last game?
And, yet, will the Tar Heels play the same porous defense that saw them let Maryland score 91 points, often by failing to hustle back and guard the Terrapins on the break?
The game will be at 4 p.m. at the Smith Center and shown on the Raycom Network.
The Tar Heels won the game against Maryland, obviously, but Coach Roy Williams was conflicted by the performance.
"It was a heck of a show," Williams said afterward. "I've said this year we can really shoot the ball, and we shot the dickens out of it tonight. But I don't like giving up 91 points, to say the least. I frustrated at the end. I did the smartest thing I've ever done with my team. I told them I wasn't going to say much. I was a little too frustrated.
"Early in the game we weren't sprinting back, talking, picking up, basically the essentials you have to start the defense. We kept trailing the men in low. We couldn't keep the ball out of the lane. It said they had 18 offensive rebounds. I thought they had 88."
One can only imagine what has been said since then. Williams is not known for being reserved about his feelings at practice.
UNC announced after the game against Maryland that Marcus Ginyard will miss the remainder of the reason because he is still having pain in a foot that underwent surgery in October 2008.
Williams also announced that William Graves has been suspended for the rest of this season for an unspecified reason. Combined with the loss of freshman big man Tyler Zeller to a broken wrist earlier in the season, Carolina's deep bench has been reduced to an ordinary roster in terms of numbers.
"We all have to pick it up on defense," point guard Ty Lawson said of Ginyard. "He was our defensive stopper last year. He did the little things. We also need rebounding. He had a lot of rebounds last year."
Ginyard also led the team by being a vocal leader. Lawson said that he's tried to do more of that lately.
"I'm talking a lot more," Lawson said, "on ball screens, switching men, getting back, things like that."
For whatever reason, this year's Tar Heels just have not defended as well at times. Lawson concedes it could be much better.
"This year's team," Lawson said, "I don't think we play defense as well as we did last year. We're not rotating as well. I don't know what it is. We have to rotate more and stop our man from driving, and we'll be much better as a team on defense.
"I think we're trapping more this year, and we didn't last year, so it wasn't as apparent. We have to talk more. Marcus was our talker. He directed everybody on defense, so that is probably the main reason we don't have our rotations like that."
Carolina has already defeated Virginia once this season, winning 83-61 at Charlottesville, Va., in January. The Tar Heels will need to put that game of their minds and focus on taking care of business against the Cavaliers so that they can play Duke for first place in the standings on Wednesday.
The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are tied atop the league standings, with Carolina fighting its way back from an 0-2 start to the conference season.
UNC will certainly have an easier time of it if Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough can continue their production.
Hansbrough scored 24 against Maryland after a 31-point performance against N.C. State. Ellington hit 12 of 15 shots from the floor, 7 of his 9 three-point attempts and scored a game-high 34 points against Maryland.
"It felt great," Ellington said. "It felt like I could shoot it and it was going in."
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