December 18, 2007
Defense fuels Carolina
Nicholls State will face a Carolina team that appears to be getting Coach Roy Williams' message that everything the top-ranked Tar Heels want to accomplish this season begins with defense.
UNC scored 21 points off 12 turnovers in the first half of Sunday's 93-71 victory at Rutgers.
"It starts with our defense," Williams said. "We were able to get some turnovers between the top of the key and the 10-second line. When you get turnovers there, it does make for fast breaks. I also liked it when twice they scored and we laid it up on the other end in less than six seconds when they scored. One time, we threw it in and Ty [Lawson] took it the length of the court. One other time we were able to throw it inside to one of the big guys."
The Tar Heels (9-0) will play their first home game in 29 days on Wednesday at 9 p.m. when the Colonels of Nicholls State come to the Smith Center. The Colonels are 4-7, but they have played a brutal schedule.
Much has been made of UNC playing six consecutive road games, but Nicholls State has played at Florida State, at Tulane, at California, at LSU, at New Orleans and at Alabama, among others.
Life will certainly not get any easier when the Colonels meet Carolina for the first time. Rutgers tried to control the tempo and slow down the fast-breaking Tar Heels. The Scarlet Knights failed.
"We had 102 possessions when the other team was trying to control the tempo," Williams said. "That could have been a really high-scoring game. It's a good feeling to score 93 points when the other team is trying to hold the ball."
Of course, a lot of that goes back to defense. When Carolina turns the opposition over and races in for easy baskets, UNC usually takes a commanding lead. Then it gets all that much more difficult for a team to try to slow the game because it has to play catch-up.
The Tar Heels' team defense has improved because several individuals have made strides.
"Tywon has gotten better," Williams said. "He puts pressure on the guard and makes it difficult for them. Wayne [Ellington] has gotten a lot better. Last year several times, I had to take him out for defensive purposes. He's much, much better. Another that may be strange to a lot of people is Tyler. Tyler Hansbrough was the defensive player of the game [on Sunday]."
That accomplishment by Hansbrough is somewhat humorous because Rutgers' J.R. Inman told a local paper before the game that he did not think Hansbrough could guard him.
"Honestly, I'm not a conceited dude," Inman was quoted as saying, "but I really don't think he can guard me. He's really strong, and he's a really talented player, don't get it twisted. He's a threat to get a double-double every night. But from what I notice defensively, he really hasn't been challenged this year by a guy who has my ability and skills."
Williams enjoyed the fact that Hansbrough responded with such a fine defensive effort.
"It was sort of appropriate because a player said in the paper that Tyler had never played against a player with his skills," Williams said. "J.R. went 3-of-14, and Tyler was the defensive player of the game against Rutgers.
"Tyler has had good defensive games," Williams said. "He had one game that he had more defensive pluses than anybody on the team has had in any game, but he had several minuses as well. It's lot easier to get a bad than to get a good. He had 39 pluses and only eight negatives [against Rutgers]."
Inman finished the game with 10 points and just three rebounds.
...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now for a FREE Trial