Before he took his team to Maui, Roy Williams made it clear that one of the possible consequences of playing three games in three days-plus four games in six days counting the road game at Long Beach State-might be a shuffling of the rotation. With a young squad, the Tar Heel head coach knew he couldn't overtax his normal rotation.
One of the primary beneficiaries of that shuffle turned out to be backup point guard Luke Davis, who played a career-high 14 minutes against Chaminade, notching a career-high seven assists and just one turnover. Davis's bump in playing time was also due to Marcus Paige's nagging back injury, but the sophomore transfer made a positive impact in his reserve role.
"My whole motto is to be ready and be prepared," Davis says. "Marcus's back hurt a little bit, and I was able to step in and find the open man. It's easy when you have such great players around you. They did all the work."
Although Davis played just four minutes in the loss to Butler, he worked hard on defense against hot-shooting Rotnei Clarke, and his season-long assist/turnover ratio is 12:1. It's fair to say that in a Maui Invitational with some mixed returns for the Tar Heels, the week on the island was a confidence-builder for Davis.
"Luke gave us a lift in the (Butler) game when he was in there with that group," Williams said last week. "Luke works so, so hard. I'm tough on point guards...Having Luke get extra minutes is something that will help us down the line."
Of course, it's one thing to excel against Chaminade in a low-pressure environment in Maui, and quite another to take control of the Carolina offense in front of a hostile crowd in Bloomington, Indiana. With Paige's season-long assist/turnover ratio at 20:19, limiting lead guard mistakes will be of primary concern against a talented team like the Hoosiers.
"I need to play better defense," Davis says. "I have a lot of work to do defensively. I'm also trying to take care of the ball. I had a turnover against Chaminade and I was upset about that. I really want to take care of the ball. My job is to get shots for the other players, and if we don't get a shot, that's a problem."
Shot selection: Before he held his first practice with the 2013 Tar Heels, Roy Williams said he expected to have a slightly different team from his usual post-oriented attack. With only James Michael McAdoo a proven scorer in the lane, Williams thought more of the scoring load would shift to the perimeter.
Through six games, that's exactly what has happened. Last season, 23.4% of Carolina's field goal attempts were three-pointers. This year, 31.4% of the Tar Heel shots are from beyond the three-point line. However, thanks to a solid performance from the perimeter in Maui, Carolina is actually shooting more effectively from the field than it did last year, when the Tar Heels featured the highly effective Tyler Zeller and John Henson around the rim.
According to effective field goal percentage, which weights three-pointers more heavily (because they're worth, you guessed it, three points), the Tar Heels had an eFG% of 49.8% last season. This year, that figure is 53.2%.
"That kind of shooting starts with us," said Reggie Bullock. "We have to make the extra pass to get good shots, and we have to knock down the shots when we get them. We have good shooters on this team, so it's up to us to make them."
Injury report: Williams liked the small lineup the Tar Heels used occasionally in Maui. But any plans to go with that lineup more frequently are on hold after Hairston suffered a knee injury in practice this weekend. "Right now I don't think he's going to practice today, and if he doesn't practice today, he's probably not going to play tomorrow," Williams said of Hairston.
Due partially to Hairston's uncertain status, the Tar Heel starting lineup is likewise unsettled. Brice Johnson earned his first career start in Maui, but there is no guarantee he will be there again tomorrow night. "Not at all," replied Williams when asked how firm Johnson's hold was on the fifth starting spot. "It was a better matchup that day. I have no idea who I'm going to start tomorrow."
Indiana will also be somewhat depleted. Two Hoosier freshmen, Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea, are serving nine-game NCAA suspensions. The organization denied the duo's appeal last week.