CHAPEL HILL — Two consecutive victories has brought a sense of confidence to North Carolina, but not a sense of cockiness. At least, that is what Tar Heels coach Roy Williams hopes.
It wasnt long ago that his team began ACC play with consecutive, sloppy defeats against Virginia and Miami. Wednesday, after back-to-back victories, the Tar Heels host Georgia Tech, the only winless team in league play.
Asked Monday whether it might be difficult to inspire his team given the Yellow Jackets winless conference record, Williams said, It better not be.
If my Carolina team takes somebody for granted, were going to have a track meet for several days after that game, Williams said, referring to the running he would put them through during practices.
During the past month, UNC has rarely been in a position to take a victory for granted. Regardless of the Yellow Jackets record, the Tar Heels arent in that position not against Georgia Tech, which led Duke at halftime last week.
Earlier this week, Williams was quick to highlight the Yellow Jackets first-half success against the Blue Devils. Earlier this month, Georgia Tech also led N.C. State at halftime. The Wolfpack beat Georgia Tech by 13 points; Duke won by 16.
Saturday, the Tar Heels will travel to Raleigh for the first of two games against N.C. State.
If you take somebody lightly in this league right now, youre going to lose, Williams said. I dont care where you are or who youre playing.
Despite its winless start in conference play, Georgia Tech has remained a formidable defensive team. The Yellow Jackets have held three of their four conference opponents to 41.5 percent shooting or worse. Overall, Georgia Tech has limited teams to 37.3 percent shooting, which is tied for 11th nationally.
UNC has already played three other teams that rank nationally among the top 16 in field goal percentage: Maryland (3rd), Virginia (6th) and Miami (16th). The Tar Heels had difficulty generating offense in defeats against the Cavaliers and Hurricanes, but they had limited success against Maryland last Saturday.
After the Tar Heels shot nearly 50 percent during the first half against the Terrapins, UNC made just 23.5 percent of its attempts from the field during the second. Williams didnt appreciate that or much else about his teams play during the final 20 minutes.
Yet, after leading by as many as 22 points in the first half, the Tar Heels prevailed with a 62-52 victory that left them hoping they could build something. The victory provided enough positives to boost confidence, and enough negatives to inspire plenty of teachable moments.
It feels good at halftime to know that youre up by that much, UNC sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo said. But basketball is a game of 40 minutes, and we knew thats something that we havent really been doing is playing whole games. Its just us, I guess, maturing and still learning as a team what we have to do.
And now comes another opportunity to mature for UNC, which must focus first on a winless, reeling opponent before turning its attention to its a rival.
Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter