Lucas: Tar Heel Basketball Notebook
Release: 01/14/2014

By Adam Lucas

There's a perception among some Tar Heel fans than any post-loss practices must include lots of running and plenty of screaming. Sometimes that's true. But sometimes it's not.

With a quirky schedule over the next two weeks--Carolina is off this week, plays Saturday and Monday, and then is off again until Sunday--the players will have a slightly unusual schedule this week. NCAA practice rules allowed the team to practice each day last week because there were three games in the week. But as part of that allowance, the Tar Heels have to have two days off this week.

Those days off will be today and tomorrow. But before the players received a rare taste of mid-January freedom, Roy Williams assembled them on Sunday for a 90-minute meeting and tape session. The first play they watched was neither a defensive breakdown, nor one of the many instances when Syracuse outhustled them to a loose ball.

"The first play we watched was our first possession on the offensive end," Williams said. "We got good player movement, got good ball movement and got a good shot. If you can do it once, you can do it more than once."

On that particular possession, the Tar Heels patiently probed the Orange zone before finding James Michael McAdoo for a relatively easy hoop. The offense didn't run quite as smoothly the rest of the afternoon, as Carolina shot 39 percent from the field.

Tar Heel family: Kennedy Meeks has struggled lately, including zero points and zero rebounds in 12 minutes at the Carrier Dome. But one former Tar Heel sees something familiar in Meeks' struggles.

"Sean May did a nice thing," Williams said at his radio show on Monday night. "He told Kennedy Meeks, 'I see where you are. That's where I was. My first year with Coach Williams he kept telling me to run and I thought I was running until I looked at the tape. My junior year, I knew I was running.'"

That junior year, during the 2004-05 season, resulted in May earning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player award. But May is correct that it wasn't always that easy for him. In January of his first year under Roy Williams--keep in mind that May was already a sophomore by that time--May once went seven straight games without making even half of his field goals in any game. That stretch included a 3-for-14 performance against Connecticut, 7-for-18 in a loss at Duke, and even a very uncharacteristic 3-of-9 from the free throw line in a loss at Florida State.

Briefly: Williams will spend the two days off from practice on the recruiting trail...The 102 points scored by the Tar Heels over the last two games is a program low for a two-game stretch during the shot clock era...Despite his 1-of-6 shooting performance at Syracuse, J.P. Tokoto has been more judicious offensively, and he's showed better form on the shots that he takes. As a result, he's hitting 46.3 percent from the field, best of any Carolina perimeter player. "He is making progress," Williams said. "He's got his elbow underneath and he's got straight backspin on his shot. He's being very selective about the shots he takes. If he continues like he is right now, before he leaves here he's going to be a fine shooter." In addition to his shooting improvements, Tokoto is also the second-leading Tar Heel rebounder in ACC play...

The Tar Heels have not had a second-half lead in any of the three ACC games so far...Injuries have slowed the expected progress of Joel James. "Joel started playing basketball when he was 16, so it's a tremendous opportunity missed when he doesn't practice and he doesn't get to play," Williams said. "At the same time, he got hurt in Saturday's game. I didn't play him down the stretch. He said he could go back in but his body language was not looking right. He got hit in the groin and it was bothering him a great deal." James did practice full speed with the team on Monday. 

Adam Lucas is the editor of CAROLINA.


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