North Carolina’s road game against Elon was designed to create excitement for its brand new 5,100-seat arena. The Schar Center was full, and the student section made cheer sheets to antagonize UNC’s players.
But the excitement quickly diminished as the Tar Heels made easy work of the Phoenix, winning 116-67.
“I keep telling our guys let’s run, run, run and hopefully take someone’s legs away,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I don’t know if it’s anything we did or if it was a just a tough night for them.”
“But they couldn’t throw it in the ocean in the second half and we started running a little bit better and rebounding totals were much better in our favor for us in the second half as well.”
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UNC picked up its second win of the season before its home-opener against Stanford (2-0) on Monday.
Here are four observations from UNC’s win:
1. Cam Johnson’s hot start
Cam Johnson has gotten off to a hot start. He had 21 points (7-for-11) on Friday, which was tied for the team lead. He hit his first five shots.
Through the first two games, Johnson is averaging 19 points per game, shooting 65 percent from the floor and 70 percent from 3.
Last season Johnson dealt with multiple injuries, including back, knee, shoulder and hip. His hip has bothered him since high school and hampered his ability to move freely. Johnson had an arthroscopic procedure to fix the problem and he says it has helped.
“My range of motion is a lot better and it’s a lot more comfortable,” Johnson said. “I feel like I can move my better and kind of just get to where I need to go instead of feeling like I’m kind of on ice on the court.”
Johnson, who is 6-9, 210 pounds, missed the first 11 games of the 2017-18 season and said said he feels more comfortable with the offense.
“I just feel like I’m in a better place,” Johnson said. “I know what Coach wants and I know what my body is capable of, and I’m learning still and just trying to keep getting better.”
2. Coby White settling in
Coby White, a 6-5, 185-pound freshman, said Tuesday he was the most nervous he’s ever been in a game. He was 3-for-10 from the floor, and had two turnovers, both in the first half.
Taking care of the basketball has been a point of emphasis for Williams.
White has settled down. He scored 14 points and had two assists on Friday and only committed one turnover.
“Jitters,” White said of the difference in his performances. “I played more comfortable today. I played with better pace. Top of the key, top of the key as fast as possible. I focused on not turning it over. You’ve just got play but still think at the same time.”
Backup point guard Seventh Woods also took better care of the ball. He had five assists and zero turnovers.
3. Kenny Williams struggling with his shot
The 6-4, 185-pound Kenny Williams has struggled with his shot in the first two games of the season. Williams, who averaged 11.4 points per game last year and shot 40 percent from behind the 3-point line has not made a shot through two games.
He was 0-for-7 on Friday, and is now 0-for-10 for the season. He appeared upset, throwing his hands in the air after his last two missed shots.
Roy Williams said he was not concerned with Kenny Williams’ shot.
“You know he got over in front of our bench and wiped up the water,” Roy Williams said. “So I told him he got something accomplished tonight and he turned into a manager and did a good job of that.
“No, he’s one of our best shooters. It’s not going in the hole for him right now. But I’m also a guy that believes I’m not going to give him any pointers. His shot is good, just keep practicing and keep positive thoughts and keep shooting the ball when you’re open. I think it will keep going in.”
4. Nassir Little finding a way to get more playing time
Nassir Little had played only 18 minutes Tuesday against Wofford. He said he wanted to make a bigger impact, so he decided to focus on crashing the boards.
Little had five offensive rebounds on Friday. He helped extend plays and gave the Tar Heels extra possessions.
“On Tuesday, I really felt that was something I lagged, and I knew I could do better,” Little said. “So I just told myself, be aggressive getting to the glass and go hard.”
Little was also tied for the team lead with 21 points and was 9-for-13 from the floor.
Williams seemed pleased with Little’s effort on the glass.
“He wants to play more and that’s the best way to do it, just to get to that board and make things happen,” Williams said. “He’s coming quickly.”