UNC Now

How film study, not running in early practice, helped North Carolina defeat Ohio State

North Carolina guard Cameron Johnson (13) grabs a loose ball against Ohio State guard Kam Williams (15) in the second half of an NCAA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. North Carolina won 86-72. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld)
North Carolina guard Cameron Johnson (13) grabs a loose ball against Ohio State guard Kam Williams (15) in the second half of an NCAA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. North Carolina won 86-72. (AP Photo/Scott Threlkeld) AP

Mistakes are only good if you can learn from them.

So instead of running his players into the ground after Wednesday’s loss to Wofford, North Carolina coach Roy Williams had his team watch the game. The whole game, all the mistakes and missed plays, as a team together.

“Hopefully they learned something,” Williams said.

It certainly looked like it on Saturday in an 86-72 win over Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic. The fifth-ranked Tar Heels (11-2) shot a blistering 52 percent from behind the 3-point line, dominated on the glass and held the Buckeyes (10-4) under 40 percent shooting in the first half as they took control of the game.

Freshman Jalek Felton, who struggled in limited minutes against Wofford, bounced back with perhaps his best game of the season with 12 points, five assists and four rebounds in 12 minutes.

Pretty much all of Carolina’s guards were productive with Joel Berry and Theo Pinson each scoring 19 points and Cam Johnson adding 14 points off the bench in his second game back from a knee injury.

There were still mistakes, notably the 17 turnovers equaled a season-high, but there were fewer defensive lapses and minimal effort mistakes. That was what Williams had hoped he would get from his team after he drastically changed his Thursday practice plan.

Right after the Wofford loss, which ended near midnight on Wednesday, Williams said he had wanted to practice at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning. Initially, there was supposed to be running – a lot of it.

But Williams woke up on Thursday and changed his mind, with some help from his assistants. Instead of sprints, there was as Johnson put it, “a long critique.”

“We didn’t even put the shoes on,” Williams said. “We went in and watched the tape, the entire game. They listened to the coaches grade them while they were sitting there (for) almost two and a half hours.”

That’s not a tact Williams might have tried earlier in his coaching career, but he figured it was the right one.

The change in plans worked, but it wasn’t completely unexpected, Berry said.

“You know Coach says all the time that he has matured a lot,” Berry said. “That’s what makes him such a great coach. He knows that he can run us to death, but he understands that’s not going to accomplish anything.

“With the young team we have, it’s better to go ahead and show the mistakes so they can understand what we did wrong.”

Nobody got more out of the film tutorial than Felton, who had three turnovers in 5 minutes against the Terriers and just tried to do too much.

Felton actually turned the ball over the first time he touched it on Saturday, which led to an Ohio State layup, but with the Tar Heels down 20-17, Felton buried his first 3-pointer at 6:59 in the first half.

Then he hit another and another on three straight trips. Felton keyed a 14-3 run which put the Heels in control of the game.

“My teammates were looking for me a lot, and I hit a few shots,” Felton said. “They kept looking for me, and I was looking for them. It was just a good offensive flow.”

But there was a little more to it than that for UNC. After poring through the Wofford game tape, the Heels saw what they were lacking and made an effort to fix it.

“Just to sit there and watch that game, it sends a pretty loud message,” Johnson said. “Just to see the lack of effort and energy and enthusiasm and execution – defensively and offensively – was something that really stood out to Coach and everyone else.”

Even coaches get smarter as they get older and learn from their mistakes.

“I’m definitely getting older, I don’t know about smarter,” Williams joked.

Ohio State would beg to differ.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

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