North Carolina coach Roy Williams has been agitated early in the season by how the No. 5 Tar Heels have played, even though they’ve won all three of their games by double-digit margins.
But it’s largely a new group trying to come together, so the ragged edges have been noticeable.
“He shouldn’t be happy with how we played,” freshman guard Cole Anthony told reporters recently. “It’s early in the season, but at some point it’s no longer going to be early in the season.”
The next chance to make a better impression comes against visiting Elon on Wednesday night at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Williams has been critical of his team after its past two victories, winning 78-62 at UNC Wilmington on Nov. 8 and then last Friday night at home against Gardner-Webb, which trailed by only four points with less than 10 minutes remaining before the Tar Heels prevailed, 77-61.
Nearly a dozen minutes into the game North Carolina (3-0) had more turnovers than made field goals.
“Do I believe we’re getting better? Yes.” Williams said afterward. “… We’ve got to play better, that’s the bottom line.”
North Carolina players seem to be on board with Williams’ assessment.
“We’re trying to compete with the best of the best, so I feel where Coach is coming from,” Tar Heels guard Leaky Black said.
Anthony has been an almost-constant bright spot for North Carolina, racking up at least 20 points in every game. He’s the first Tar Heels freshman to accomplish the feat in program history. His 82 total points are the most by any North Carolina player across a three-game stretch since 2011.
Elon (2-2) won a pair of games against non-Division I teams before falling at Georgia Tech and at Michigan. This marks the final outing of a three-game stretch against teams from Power 5 conferences for the Phoenix.
“I think in college basketball today, if you prepare to be the tougher, more together team and you can honestly say that after the game, you’ve got a chance to win,” first-year Elon coach Mike Schrage said. “I don’t care what that talent deficit supposedly is.”
Elon has introduced largely a new lineup this season, when it was selected last in the Colonial Athletic Association’s preseason coaches’ poll.
“As we’re going to build this program, we’re going to fight, and we’re going to be tough,” Schrage said. “… We’re going to stay confident through the process. It’s early in the season.”
Swingman Marcus Sheffield II, a transfer from Stanford, leads the Phoenix in scoring with 17.3 points per game.
Williams is sixth career in Division I coaching victories with 874, just two behind former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp.
North Carolina is 171-18 all-time against in-state nonconference opponents. Elon will mark the third straight foe to fall into that category.
This matchup is part of the arrangement stemming from last November when North Carolina was the opponent as Elon opened a new arena on campus. The schools are separated by about 35 miles.
The game also counts as mainland matchup in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Next week, North Carolina plays three games in three days in the Bahamas as part of the tournament.
–Field Level Media